The only week in the golfing calendar where the game becomes all about the collective rather than the individual, at least at the highest level, is finally upon us, and what a week it should be in Wisconsin. The Ryder Cup is back on US soil having last been hosted in the Parisian suburbs of France. On that occasion, the Europeans recorded a resounding victory, one that really hammered home their recent dominance in this event, and one that really hurt the Americans, who will be itching to get revenge at Whistling Straits this week.
Ryder Cup Format
Unlike most of the tournaments played on both the PGA and European Tours, the Ryder Cup starts on a Friday and is played over three days, as opposed to four. There are five main sessions. The first day consists of four foursome matches, before four fourball matches. For those unfamiliar with such things, foursomes consist of two pairs playing match play against each other, but alternating shots. Fourballs is where each pairing plays two balls, using the better of the two scores, again in a match-play format.
On the second day, the pairings change, but the teams will again play foursomes, followed by fourballs. Finally, the Sunday showdown consists of 12 singles matches.
In terms of scoring, for every match played, a point is awarded to the winner. The match is a tie, each team/each player receives half a point. 28 matches will be played in total, which means that reigning champions Europe need to secure exactly half of the points to retain their title, which means that the US, who’s looking to avenge 2018’s disappointing defeat, need to win 14.5 of the 28 points on offer to reclaim the Ryder Cup.
Ryder Cup Teams
The teams, though both consisting of 12 players, were selected slightly differently. Six players featuring for the US were selected automatically based on their rankings, while the other six have been chosen by captain Steve Stricker. For Europe, nine players were automatically selected based on a ranking system, while the final three spots were filled at the discretion of captain Padraig Harrington.
The 2021 Ryder Cup teams are as follows:
Automatic US qualifiers: Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, and Bryson DeChambeau.
Stricker’s picks: Daniel Berger, Harris English, Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, and Jordan Spieth.
Automatic European qualifiers: Paul Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Jon Rahm, and Lee Westwood.
Harrington’s picks: Ian Poulter, Shane Lowry, and Sergio Garcia
Who should we bet on?
If you’re interested in getting involved in the outright betting ahead of the Ryder Cup, then you may be licking your lips at the fact that the defending champions, who’ve won four of the last five renewals, are as big as +240, but don’t be too quick to bite off the hand of the bookmaker so to speak.
The US had a torrid time of things in France back in 2018, but they made light work of winning the last renewal on home soil, winning 17-11 in Minnesota back in 2016, while if we look at the teams, it’s hard not to be drawn to the sheer brilliance packed into the line-up of the hosts, who really have no shortage of world-beaters.
Europe obviously has world number one Jon Rahm, which cannot be overlooked, but if it comes down to the sheer volume of top-ten talent, then the US wins hands down. Eight of the current ten in the Official World Golf Rankings will feature for the US at Whistling Straits, while Rahm is the only top-ten player in the European team.
Not only does the US have what on paper looks to be the better team (and not just by a little bit) but they also have recent history on their side, in that six of the last seven Ryder Cups have been won by the home side. We really cannot underestimate the importance of home advantage. After all, it is the hosts who get to set the course up however they choose, so expect the Wisconsin track to be geared towards the power-stacked US line-up.
Whistling Straits is a course that lots of these players know, as it is a regular on the PGA Championship rota, hosting three times since the turn of the century. And the Europeans in this line-up have a history of struggling. In 2004, Ian Poulter was one of only four Europeans (from the current Ryder Cup team) to finish inside the top 40. Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, and Sergio Garcia all missed the cut. It was a similar story in 2010, when Garcia and Lowry failed to make the weekend, while in 2015, no fewer than four in this line-up floundered, with Fleetwood, Wiesberger, Lowry, and Poulter all failing to feature beyond the Friday. If such a record wasn’t damning enough, in 2015, four of the current US Team members finished inside the top 10, the pick of which was Jordan Spieth, who left the Wisconsin venue as the runner-up.
So, what does all this info amount to? Well, in short, side with the hosts, who’ve looked to have plenty in favor. When we consider everything above, it’s easy to feel that there’s even some juice in -175 currently available in places.
Two other bets that I’m super keen on this week are USA victories in both the foursomes and the fourballs on the opening day. US captain Steve Stricker has the luxury of having some really solid foundations to build on, while Padraig Harrington, by his own admission in the last few days, is still unsure about how to play his pairings, which for the most part just isn’t the case for the man making the decisions on the opposing team. We know that Spieth and Thomas, who’re great friends and a fierce duo, will compete together again, while Schauffele and Cantlay, two Californians and friends, make up another solid combination. Pairings like that really give the hosts something to hold onto, and it’s just something the Europeans don’t appear to have.
We also know that the course is going to be set up to favor the likes of Johnson, Koepka, Finau, and DeChambeau, so whatever way Stricker plays his pairings on day one, he appears to have an advantage. Make no mistake about it, the likes of Rahm and McIlroy should benefit in a similar way to the US players mentioned above, but the strength in depth just doesn’t seem to be there for the Europeans. Beyond that pair, nobody really looks a great fit for Whistling Straits in its current form, while the US team is packed with power and attacking play. Moreover, if we consider the ever-important strokes gained: tee-to-green metric, we can see that it is the US who has the advantage there too. Going back to the 2021 PGA Tour season, which only recently came to a close, four of the top five when it came to strokes gained: tee-to-green is in the current US line-up.
All in all, there’s enough to think that the hosts, with a star-studded line-up that simply trumps that of their opponents, and with solid foundations already laid in terms of the pairings, are worth supporting to come out on top on day one in both the foursomes and the fourballs. Bet on an American win in both at odds of +115.