Where does the betting value lie in this year's Ryder Cup?
While the patriotic heart in me wants Europe to retain the Ryder Cup, the head very much says the USA will wrest it back, although it could be by a tighter margin than the odds suggest.
Of course, many a patriotic pound will be going the way of Europe (any 2/1 has now disappeared) and history is on the side of potential backers, with eight victories in the last ten since 1995 and just one of these biennial encounters this century going the way of the USA. However, there are good reasons to think that Davis Love III’s side can stem the tide in Minnesota this week and here are five of the most compelling.
1. Home advantage should count more so than in previous years
While Europe have won two of the three Ryder Cups played on US soil this century – the exception being Valhalla in 2008 – this week’s track has been set up to feed the extra power of the Americans. At 7,268 yards and with three par-fives at over 600 yards, Hazeltine is a monster test and the big hitters can let rip off the tee in the knowledge that the rough, which is set to just 3″, is far from penal. That’s not to say Europe are short of big hitters, on the contrary, but the Americans can boast some really long hitters, such as Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepke and J.B. Holmes. They will be hitting four-iron into the greens on the longer holes, while some will be going in with a wood. Not to mention the noisy and intimidating galleries of America’s north-west.
2. They have the stronger side in paper and can boast a stronger tail
DL III, who is having his second stint as captain, having been in charge at Medinah four years ago, has gone on record as saying this is the best side America has ever put out and the cumulative world rankings back that up – 196 for the USA and 343 for Europe. Of course, they are based on stroke play performance and this week’s format of match play bears little relation but, nonetheless, it’s a measure of the home side’s strength that wildcard pick Rickie Fowler is ranked ninth in the world.
3. There is plenty of experience amongst their ranks with fewer rookies
Only J.B. Holmes and Phil Mickelson remain of the last successful side in 2008, but the rest, apart from rookies Brooks Koepke and Ryan Moore, have experience of playing in the Ryder Cup, albeit they finished on the losing side. Team Europe, on the other hand, has six rookies and there are question marks over four of them: Matthew Fitzpatrick has not been at his very best in recent starts; Chris Wood qualified on the strength of his victory at Wentworth in May and has not had a top-ten since June; it’s been a long time since Raphael Cabrera Bello’s last win and Andy Sullivan hasn’t really reproduced his stellar 2015 form this season. More worrying is the poor form of some of the more experienced members of Team Europe; Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer in particular, who have been a long way below their best in 2016.
4. The USA side are all-round better putters
The Ryder Cup always comes down to who can sink the putts that matter – think the nerve-jangling six-footer holed by Martin Kaymer at Medinah – and it could now be the Americans’ turn. While they aren’t not all brilliant putters, the likes of Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson and Brandt Snedeker are top class in that department, which can’t be said of three of Europe’s big guns, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia – that trio are outside of the top-150 for three-putt avoidance in the PGA Tour rankings. And it’s doubtful that Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and Cabrero Bello would have finished inside the top-100 if they had made sufficient starts to count.
5. The home side have an inspirational captain and will be playing to honour the memory of Arnold Palmer
In DL III, the Americans have an inspirational captain who has admitted the mistakes he made over the weekend at Medinah, and who has been open to the input of the player-iniated Ryder Cup Task Force that was set up after the most recent failure at Gleneagles. Basically, the Yanks got sick and tired of losing and no stone has been left unturned in their bid to wrest the Ryder Cup back. Love is as a result surrounded by an impressive backroom staff of vice-captains, which include Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson (who nominated himself!), and the feeling is that there won’t be any excuses this time, not withstanding the fact they have got to get at least 14.5 points on the board. Perhaps the sad passing of Arnold Palmer this week will be the inspiration they need to get over the line.
So where does that leave punters? Those who took the early 10/11 and 4/5 on the USA when too much was being made of Europe’s dominance, have a good bet. But the current 4/6 is less appealing and especially as the result could be in doubt until late on Sunday. Five of the last seven Ryder Cups on US soil have been won by a single-point (either 15-13 or 14.5-13.5) and a couple of correct score punts on DL III’s side look the way to go, though any thoughts of profit will go out of the window if Darren Clarke’s men have a chance of glory on Sunday.