The Ryder Cup gets underway at Gleneagles tomorrow, with Paul McGinley’s men looking to heap more misery on their American counterparts after their heroics at Medinah.
The home side will go into the tournament as heavy favourites, and rightly so. Europe boast four of the world’s top six players; they have won seven of the last nine Ryder Cups and haven’t lost on home soil for 21 years.
But the players have been quick to remind everyone that golf is played on grass and not on paper, and it won’t be easy for a European side still coming down from one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history.
We’ve poured through the statistics in an attempt to predict who will emerge victorious on Sunday, as well as some attractive betting propositions in the individual markets.
The tournament will be played over the Centenary Course at Gleneagles, which has hosted the Johnnie Walker Championship on the European Tour since 2001. Despite being nestled in picturesque Scottish countryside, the course is fairly American in terms of its layout. On the face of it, this should suit the visitors more than in previous visits across the Atlantic – however the rough has been left woolly and the run-off areas around the greens clipped short, with Jim Furyk already having a slight moan about the distinct difference to what he and his teammates are accustomed to at home. The course will play 7,243 yards this week and combined with some fairly soft conditions, this could favour the longer hitters. The forecast reads for clear skies with some blustery conditions.
Winning percentages at the Ryder Cup:
Ian Poulter (80%)
Justin Rose (67%)
Sergio Garcia (64%)
Thomas Bjorn (58%)
Martin Kaymer (58%)
Lee Westwood (57%)
Rory McIlroy (56%)
Graeme McDowell (50%)
Henrik Stenson (43%)
Keegan Bradley (75%)
Zach Johnson (59%)
Matt Kuchar (57%)
Hunter Mahan (56%)
Webb Simpson (50%)
Phil Mickelson (45%)
Bubba Watson (38%)
Jim Furyk (37%)
Rickie Fowler (33%)
When considering the top point scorer on either side, it’s crucial to weigh up where that player will fit into his captain’s plans. Anyone missing more than one of the five rounds stands next to no chance of amassing the most points; ten of the past 12 top scorers have played in every round, with the other two sitting out just one. Interestingly, Europe have produced the highest individual scorer in five of the past six Ryder Cups.
Team Europe is littered with big names who boast a wealth of Ryder Cup experience, but for mine the squad’s key core will be Rory Mcilroy, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose. Rory is of course a big favourite to be Europe’s banker, but his RC record, combined with the price, makes me inclined to look elsewhere. Poulter’s record is phenomenal, but he’s yet to show anything like the form of Medinah on Tour this season. Garcia also thrives on this stage and has been playing some terrific golf, but the man I most fancy is Poulter’s likely partner, Justin Rose. He played in all five matches at Medinah and has won six of his nine Ryder Cup matches, including his two singles (both against Phil Mickelson in 2008 and 2012). He clearly likes the venue, with three top 15s from three previous visits to Gleneagles. I expect the Englishman to be a mainstay of the European side once again.
Back Justin Rose to be leading European scorer at 13/2
The USA boast two multiple major champions in Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson, but interestingly both have struggled in past Ryder Cups. The form player in their ranks is undoubtedly Rickie Fowler, who comes to Gleneagles on the back of a stellar season which included top-five finishes at all four majors. The 26-year-old showed an affinity for this format at the World Matchplay, knocking off several big names and only succumbing to eventual winner Jason Day. However at just his second Ryder Cup, he remains unproven in the team game. America may have found an answer to Ian Poulter in the form of Keegan Bradley, who boasts the best win percentage (75%) after winning three of his four matches at Medinah. But considering his RC experience and matchplay pedigree, I’m very keen on Matt Kuchar. He owns a positive record, with three wins, two losses and a pair of halves, but has proved extremely successful in the two-man format where he remains unbeaten (three wins and two losses). As a winner of last year’s World Matchplay, Kuchar is always a danger in the head-to-head format. The early indications are that he will be paired with young gun Jordan Spieth, which looks a very formidable combination and one that could rack up early points for the stars and stripes.
Back Matt Kuchar to be leading American scorer at 8/1
The Ryder Cup is arguably the most high-pressure event of the year, but one rookie who has shown little fear since bursting onto the pro scene is Jordan Spieth. Who could forget his stunning debut at Augusta? Few 21-year-olds possess the sort of mettle this kid has shown on the biggest stage and I expect him to take it all within his stride again this week. Blessed with an abundance of talent, Spieth showed enough at the World Matchplay (knocking off Kuchar en route to the quarter finals) to suggest he’ll be a Ryder Cup force, particularly if paired with a solid partner like Kuchar.
Back Jordan Spieth to be top debutant at 11/4
Victor Dubuisson – the man they call ‘magic hands’ – has been earmarked for this event ever since the Accenture World Matchplay. There he beat major champions Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell and Ernie Els, before pushing Jason Day to 23 holes with the sort of miraculous recovery golf that would have had Seve Ballesteros applauding from above. The Frenchman knows the Gleneagles layout well, having made three appearances at the Johnnie Walker Classic with an 8th in 2011 his best result. The whispers from Gleneagles are that Dubuisson will be paired with McDowell first up, which looks a terrific match on paper and bodes well for points.
Back Victor Dubuisson to be top European rookie at 7/4
As mentioned above, there are several factors which point towards another victory for Europe. If I have one concern over the European side, it’s that they appear slightly top-heavy. If the Americans can knock over a couple of the big-name European pairings on Friday, they do possess the overall depth to mount a serious challenge. However on home soil, with conditions to suit and a vocal crowd, I expect the class within Paul McGinley’s squad to see Europe over the line – but only just.
Back Europe to beat America 15-13 at 9/1