Every other year since 1927 on the cusp of Summer and Fall, the best golfers in Europe sharpen their nine irons and square off against the best golfers in the USA and battle it out in the Ryder Cup tournament.
This year, the biannual event will be held at Gleneagles Golf Course in Scotland on September 26-28, and will summon a European team that should dominate their opponents from across the Atlantic with relative ease. The three-day event is comprised of two rounds of four-ball matches, two rounds of four-man, alternate-play matches, and a final round on Sunday of twelve individual matches, often times pairing the most exciting international golf rivalries the sport has to offer.
The extreme competitiveness and inherent stress of the tournament makes for strange heroes and surprising turnabouts. Mediocre English golfers like Ian Poulter become Tiger Woodsian in stature, sinking putts and devastating opponents. Legendary golfers like Tiger Woods become, well, more like Ian Poulter.
Actually, there is no real favorite in who will win this year, because what they are competing in is golf.
How one performs on one given Sunday vs. the next one is unrelated. There is lot about luck and randomness in golf, whether the wind blows east or west can make a big difference. Does it help your power fade or smother your controlled draw?
Other factors like putting can become a nightmare if your feel deserts you and you start lipping all of them for one reason or another. How about lucky bounces? Did the ball bounce in the water or onto the green? Did that great drive land in a divot or did that bad one fluff up in the rough rendering a great lie?
New York Times writer Karen Crouse describes golf’s fickle nature when she said, “It is an amnesiac sport, with everyone’s slates wiped clean at the start of each week.” But just as a hypothetical, let’s say that golf isn’t so jaded by circumstances and that outcome is determined by what has happened in the past. Then what? Well, for the 2016 Ryder Cup, Europe wins. Here’s why:
Team USA consists of Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker, Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan, and Web Simpson. They have combined for a total of 41 Ryder Cup appearances. The most problematic issue with them is the overall poor performance by this year’s players in past Ryder Cups.
Let’s look at how they fared in previous matches.
For analysis sake since the Ryder Cup is in the possession of the Europeans, ties don’t help the Americans. If everyone tied all the matches at Gleneagles, then the cup would stay with Europe. America needs to win more points than Europe to regain the cup.
Problem number one is that roughly half of those 41 Ryder Cup appearances are by Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk. Unfortunately, both players have not been successful in Ryder Cup play. Phil has won only 14 of the 38 matches that he has played and has lost 18 of them. Six of his Ryder Cup matches have resulted in ties. This gives the five-time major winner only a 37% winning percentage.
Even more pitiful than Phil is Furyk. The man with the swing that no one would want, (other than, maybe, Charles Barkley), who has one U.S. Open under his belt and happens to be America’s highest ranking golfer at #7 in the world, has a dismal Ryder Cup record of 9-17-4. The 30% winning percentage means that if Furyk gets to play in all five of the possible matches at Gleneagles, we can be sure that he will bring home about one and a half points for Team USA.
Others’ records don’t inspire a lot of confidence, either. Ricky Fowler in his one appearance didn’t win a match with a 0-1-2 record, and Bubba with two appearances has lost five of his eight matches.
Mat Kuchar with a 3-2-2 record has more wins than losses, but with the two ties still only leaves him at three in seven odds or about a 42% chance of winning. Hunter Mahan stands about the same in effectiveness with a 3-2-3 record.
Keegan Bradley who made the team as Tom Watson’s coach’s pick is the shiniest star when it comes to past performances. He is 3-1 in his only Ryder Cup appearance.
Aside from him, only Zach Johnson, who is ranked 15th in the world and has played in two other Ryder Cups, has over a 50% winning record, having won six of his eleven matches with four losses and two ties for a 54% winning percentage.
Lets take a look at Europe’s team. First and foremost, there is of course the world’s 36th-ranked player in Englishman Ian Poulter who has shredded American golfers over his four appearances, winning 12 of his 15 matches for an uncanny 80% win percentage.
Fellow Englishman Justin Rose in his two appearances at the Ryder Cup has won six of his nine matches, garnering a 66% win ratio. Germany’s Martin Kaymer has won three of the five matches that he’s played in over the last two Ryder Cups for a 60% win record.
Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who still hasn’t won a major, conjures up Seve Ballesteros at the Ryder Cup. He boasts an impressive 16-8-4 record. Also sans a major, Lee Westwood has an 18-13-6 record. Between the two of them they have 14 previous Ryder Cups and 34 wins against 21 losses and 10 ties.
Of course, the Europeans have the World’s #1 player, Rory McIlroy, coming off of two major wins in 2014. He is 4-3-2 in Ryder Cup play.
In the final analysis the X-factor for the tournament also gives the Europeans the edge. The Ryder Cup is being played at home on European soil in Scotland, but more importantly, the Europeans perform like a team that has played together since they were boys. They like each other and they love to beat Americans.
The Americans play a three-day, away-game series against what looks a bit like the New York Yankees of golf. Lately, the Americans seem mechanical and lacking spirit in these match-ups. Their record of losing five of the last six Ryder Cups demonstrates this. The Americans play like they all work for the same corporation. On Sunday, they will be watching the clock to see what time it is so they can fly back home to relax. That night, Rory McIlroy will be drinking Jagermeister out of the Ryder Cup.