The 42nd edition of the Ryder Cup begins on Friday as Europe seek to regain control of the cup from the United States following their defeat in Hazeltine in 2016.
The United States ended a run of three-straight tournaments without a victory by defeating Darren Clarke’s men in Minnesota. It was their first triumph since 2008 and they now face the challenge of successfully defending their crown overseas.
Team USA have not won in Europe for 25 years, stretching all the way back to the 1993 edition of the competition. On that occasion Tom Watson’s men managed to edge their way to victory at the Belfry and will be looking for a similar performance at Le Golf National with Jim Furyk hoping to leave victorious.
Thomas Bjorn has an experienced side at his disposal, despite naming more rookies than the United States. Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey having played more several tournaments each. They will be aiming to channel the spirit of past European teams to defeat the States, who arguably have more individual talent at their disposal.
The States arrive in France with the Ryder Cup and will be determined to leave European shores with the cup still in their possession. It will be a massive challenge considering that it has been 25 years since the USA have won the competition overseas. However, they are stocked with talent, including the resurgent Tiger Woods. Woods has not been at his best in the Ryder Cup over the years, holding a losing record in the event. The 42-year-old has rediscovered his elite powers of old, winning his first tour event in five years at the Tour Championship last week.
It will be another step towards redemption for Woods if he leads an effort by the States to successfully retain the crown. He will be ably supported by Brooks Koepka, who has won two of the majors this season. Koepka is in the form of his life and will be very hard to stop over the course of the weekend. Patrick Reed was born for the big occasion, thriving in his previous two tournaments. Reed won his first major of his career at The Masters with a fantastic performance, and although his form has tailed off towards the end of the term, he will relish the hostile environment.
There are concerns as well for Furyk in the tournament. Bubba Watson is already struggling with a virus, which will be worth monitoring. Jordan Spieth’s putting has been off throughout the season and is an attribute which is so crucial in the Ryder Cup. Phil Mickelson has never been able to capture his best form at the event, while Webb Simpson’s experience has not been a good one, losing three of his six matches. Dustin Johnson has dominated in singles, but has not translated his form into the fourballs and foursomes. There are three rookies in the side, who have a lot of ability, led by Justin Thomas, but the pressure of the Ryder Cup especially away from home is a unique environment.
Bjorn’s side enter the competition as slight underdogs, although they have been in the past and have emerged victorious. They will need a lot from their experienced players as Europe are fielding more rookies than their opponents, featuring five players that will be new to the tournament. McIlroy has to lead the way for his team. Bjorn will be expecting big things from the Northern Irishman, who has relished the responsibility in the past. McIlroy was one of the few players to cope with the pressure of Hazeltine last time out. The tables have turned on the States and it will be their players deal with the hostile atmosphere, with McIlroy determined to feed off the energy of the European crowd.
Rose is playing the best golf on the tour at the moment, highlighted by his FedEx Cup triumph. The Englishman has an impressive record at the Ryder Cup and will have to use his experience to anchor the team with McIlroy. Francesco Molinari displayed the composure to win The Open in July, securing his first major. He was the only European to win a major this term and his ability to handle the pressure will be vital, although he does hold a poor record at the tournament.
Garcia and Poulter have combined to produce heroic moments for Europe over the years. Their golf has not been of a high standard of late, but the form book tends to go out the window at the Ryder Cup. However, anything other than their best will probably not be good enough. Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey complete the captain’s picks. Both have experience, but success on the tour has been hit and miss, especially for Stenson. The rookies could make-or-break Europe’s charge. Rahm seems the perfect character for the Ryder Cup and seems to have the game to back it up. Tommy Fleetwood also fits into that category and both of those players should see regular action. Tyrell Hatton has been solid as has Thorbjorn Olesen and Alex Noren, although it would be surprising to see Bjorn throw them forward as much. Thomas Pieters was outstanding last time out – they could emulate his performance to be the surprise package.
The Ryder Cup is a very unpredictable event. It never seems to go the way predicted and someone always seems to produce a special performance that turns the competition in favour of their side. The USA have the stronger talent on their side and more importantly depth. Europe have turned to their old favourites in the form of Poulter, Garcia and Casey. Their performances could play a vital factor. McIlroy, Rose and Rahm along with the States’ top players are similar and will likely cancel each other out.
The difference will be the battles between the rookies, where the States have players that have shined on the tour at one point or another over the course of the season. Thomas and Finau both have immense quality, while even Spieth and Simpson are going under the radar. Therefore back the States to win at odds of -111 with Bet365, while the score will be 15-13 at odds of +800 to the visiting team to secure their first triumph overseas since 1993.
United States To Win The Ryder Cup
Friday 28th September – Sunday 30th September 2018
United States 15-13 Europe Scoreline
Friday 28th September – Sunday 30th September 2018