Europe has won six of the last seven Ryder Cup matches and one thinks that the home team has the golfers to win this year’s clash against the United States of America.
Tom Watson was the captain of the last United States of America to win on European soil and the Americans have turned to the eight-time major championship winner in an effort to turn the tables on a Europe side that has been dominant in the Ryder Cup for much of the last 30 years.
Outsiders have won seven of the last 11 Ryder Cup matches and that is something on which the United States of America is hanging its hat but one thinks that statistic, while it is true, does not mean all that much. Quite simply, it is a product of Europe, which has been the traditional Ryder Cup underdog, having such a successful run in recent times.
First, Europe has the best golfer in the world in its team. Rory McIlroy’s form since breaking off his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki in May – the results of both of them following their split suggests that, professionally at least, they are better off apart – has been outstanding. McIlroy has won the Open Championship, the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship in the last three months, wins that have rocketed him clear at the top of the world ranking.
Second, Europe has the best Ryder Cup performer in its side. Ian Poulter is not everyone’s cup of tea – earlier this year he got into all sorts of trouble for complaining about his nanny being downgraded on a British Airways flight, leaving his wife to look after four kids in business class – but he is a Ryder Cup superstar having won 12 of his 15 rubbers, a record that belies his relatively low world ranking of 38th.
Third, Europe has recognised course specialists in its team. The Ryder Cup will take place at the Gleneagles Hotel, which has been the venue for a European Tour event every year from 1999 to 2013. Thomas Bjorn took out the 2011 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, while Stephen Gallacher, whose uncle Bernard Gallacher skippered Europe to Ryder Cup glory in 1995, has been a regular high flier in the aforementioned tournament, placing second, sixth (twice), 10th and 14th in his last five appearances. It was no surprise to followers of course form that Europe captain Paul McGinley picked Gallacher as one of his three discretionary selections.
Fourth, Europe’s side is, arguably, better equipped to deal with the weather conditions and the course set-up. The Met Office is forecasting cold and windy weather for the start of the Ryder Cup and, while there are some hardy souls in the United States of America team, they are outnumbered by golfers who prefer benign conditions in which to play. And one has noticed that McGinley has set up the Gleneagles Hotel track to place an emphasis on greens in regulation. Europe’s side holds all the aces on that key statistic.
Finally, rightly or wrongly, there is a perception that the Ryder Cup means a little bit more to Europe and that, allied to home advantage, is sufficient for one to tip the host.
With regards to Ryder Cup exotics, one flagged the value in backing Gleneagles Hotel specialists Bjorn and Gallacher in various top points scorer markets a few weeks ago. They are speculative punts – there is a fair chance that neither man will play sufficient rounds of golf to take out the awards – but some bookmakers were offering odds that were too long.
If backing Europe at odds on to win the Ryder Cup does not get one’s heart racing then perhaps back the home team to go wire to wire, which means leading at the end of each of the three days. Boylesports is offering that option at odds of +250 and, with the weather forecast bleakest for the first day, it ties in strongly with one’s fourth point above.
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