It is, to all intents and purposes, the World Cup of golf, with the cream of the crop from Europe taking on the might of the USA in a three-day battle to determine the best golfing continent on the planet (sort of).
The Europeans are the holders after securing a third successive triumph at Gleneagles in 2014, but with the tournament returning to American soil (the Hazeltine Club in Minnesota, to be precise) the hosts will be confident – as ever – of victory.
Remember, there is no prize money at stake here, no ranking points, just good old fashioned patriotic honour and dignity to be upheld. No wonder the Ryder Cup can descend into such raucous fare on occasions.
The 2016 edition is the 41st hosting of the event, with Europe winning seven of the last eight renewals. So can they make it a glorious nine, or will the Americans have their revenge in their own backyard?
Ryder Cup Format
The scoring process is simple enough to understand, even if it appears to be pretty madcap during the live coverage. A point is earned for each rubber won, with a half point earned by both sides if the score is tied after 18 holes. The team with the most points at the end of Sunday wins….it really is that straightforward.
Friday September 30 is the first day of the tournament, and in the morning will feature 4 foursome matches (that’s not as kinky as it sounds; simply, pairs take it in turns to play alternate shots) and in the afternoon 4 fourball matches (the ‘better ball’ format: all four players play their own ball, with the lowest score counting towards the overall standing.
The same format prevails on Saturday October 1, while on Sunday October 2 the Ryder Cup culminates in 12 singles rubbers that generally determine the destination of the trophy; see the ‘Miracle of Medinah’ for more details.
Ryder Cup Teams
The make-up of the Ryder Cup teams is driven largely by the season’s performances, although the respective captains – who this year are Darren Clarke for Europe and Davis Love III for USA – have some say with three wildcard picks of their own choosing.
Rory McIlroy; Henrik Stenson; Martin Kaymer; Sergio Garcia; Justin Rose; Danny Willett; Lee Westwood; Thomas Pieters; Andy Sullivan; Matt Fitzpatrick; Chris Wood; Rafa Cabrera-Bello.
Dustin Johnson; Zach Johnson; Phil Mickelson; Patrick Reed; Brooks Koepka; Brandt Snedeker; Jordan Spieth; Jimmy Walker; Ryan Moore; Rickie Fowler; JB Holmes; Matt Kuchar.
Europe has gone for a blend of youth and experience: Lee Westwood is something of a Ryder Cup veteran now, and he will be joined by six rookies including Cabrera-Bello, Wood, Fitzpatrick, Sullivan, Pieters and Willett. How will they cope with the unique Ryder Cup atmosphere in the cauldron-like environment created by the Americans? Only time will tell.
Hazeltine National Golf Club
This is matchplay golf, and so we can look at the course details with our less investigative hat on, but even so at a whopping 7,678 yards it is going to clearly advantage the big hitters.
But with narrow fairways and small greens, an accurate tee shot is required too; so there really is something for all players here. Factor in pressure putting and it is a good all-round test of credentials.
We’ll be looking at players’ stats for Par 5 Scoring, Total Driving and Greens in Regulation as a guide for our outright pick.
Ryder Cup Winner Betting
The natural concern here is that Europe’s rookies will struggle to cope with the patriotic environment created by the US patrons on home soil. Ironically, home advantage hasn’t really played a part in recent times – Europe lead 3-2 in the last five played in America – but with such an inexperienced squad it could be a problem. Also, lest we forget, the Americans led 10-4 heading into the final day of the last Ryder Cup and should have eased home.
Europe will need their key players to come to the party: we have two major winners this season in Willett and Stenson, the FedEx Cup champion in McIlroy and the Olympic gold medallist in Justin Rose, so clearly the chaps from the continent can mix it.
But the American squad has so much depth, and even if their big names don’t come to the party then the likes of the in-form Ryan Moore, Brooks Koepka and JB Holmes look perfectly suited to the Hazeltine conditions.
They will no doubt be pumped up following the passing of Arnold Palmer this week too; one of the game’s all-time greats and somebody who was involved, on and off the course, in seven US wins in the Ryder Cup.
So punters are advised to back a narrow US win then at 8/13, with extra value sought in them with a -1.5 point handicap at 4/5.