There’s been a longer than usual wait for Ryder Cup fans thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but after a three-year gap, this compelling tournament is once again on the horizon and the USA will be determined to wrestle back control of the famous trophy.
Europe’s dominance of this event in recent years has not influenced Ryder Cup bettors as the big event approaches. Steve Stricker’s USA team is rated as strong favorites, while Padraig Harrington and the Europeans are significant outsiders, perhaps due to the memories of the last time Europe competed for the Ryder Cup on US soil. That was back in 2016 and a disastrous European effort saw them surrender the Cup as the USA won 17-11.
Since the tournament became a USA v Europe affair in 1979, the Europeans have held the edge. Although the USA won five of the first eight, Europe have had the upper hand in recent editions, winning seven of the last nine. The USA are definitely more comfortable on home soil, however, and all three of their latest wins since 1999 have come on US soil.
There is a third option in the betting, as with 28 points up for grabs, it is possible for the tournament to end in a draw. However, if you’re thinking of backing a draw it is worth noting that there have only been two draws in 42 editions of the tournament, the latest coming in 1989, so at the current odds, that doesn’t look particularly tempting.
Whistling Straights is a spectacular course owned by the American Club near Sheboygan in the northern state of Wisconsin. Nestled on the shore of Lake Michigan, it is a links-style course of 7,790 yards, wide open to the elements and a venue with which many of the European players will be comfortable. The fact that many of them will have played this course when it hosted the PGA Championship in 2010 and 2015 will also help the visitors.
Whistling Straits will hold the distinction of being the first public golf course to host the Ryder Cup in a quarter-century, and spectators can be guaranteed three days of thrills thanks to the rugged layout, the huge greens, and the wildcard that is the weather. It takes a certain type of player to thrive on links courses and traditionally, that has tended to favor Europeans.
Stricker, as a Wisconsin native, was perhaps the obvious choice to lead the US charge here and while he can’t match the achievements of his opposite number, he does have plenty of experience in this tournament, having played it three times. And with Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, and Davis Love III as his vice-captains, he won’t be short of wisdom and counsel.
Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, and Patrick Cantlay are guaranteed a place in the team. Four of the six captain’s picks are likely to go to Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, and Harris English and while that is a pretty impressive line-up, it lacks the presence of a cooler older head, so Stricker may be keen to involve Webb Simpson, who has also played in three Ryder Cups, despite his ordinary 2021 form.
If the Ryder Cup was decided on the record of the respective captains, then Europe would be strong favorites. Harrington is a three-time Major winner, with no fewer than six Ryder Cup appearances to his name, including a starring role in the famous 2004 Europe win.
Harrington will also be able to call on the vast experience of his vice-captains: Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, and Robert Karlsson.
Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, and Paul Casey all look likely to make the European team automatically, while Shane Lowry, an excellent links player, and veteran Lee Westwood are also in a strong position. Unlike Stricker, however, Harrington has only three captain’s picks so will have to choose wisely to ensure the right balance for Whistling Heights.
As the strong favorites and with home advantage, the US team will be strongly favored to win this year, but they haven’t always coped well with that level of expectation.
The wildcard this year is the course itself. Whistling Straits is not the parkland big-hitter’s paradise that might typically suit the US players. Instead, it will offer the kind of test more usually seen in Scotland or Ireland, and the big greens, open landscape, and significant undulations will place demands on the US players that they don’t face every week.
Traditionally the US strength comes in the singles matches, played on the final day, but if Europe is in contention going into day three, then the course and the pressure on their opponents may work in their favor. At the current odds, bettors should surely be wary of relying on the US and the value here lies with Team Europe.
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