Few sporting competitions are as unusual as the Ryder Cup. Think about it for a moment in terms of the humble robin. A frequent visitor to the back garden, despite their appealing, jovial look they are in fact fiercely territorial and will not suffer another robin to intrude upon their green patch.
Anyone with a chair beside a back window and some hours to spare will tell you likewise.
Now try and imagine 12 of these avian isolationists coming together to work toward a common goal and you get a feel for how weird the Ryder Cup really is. Golfers, by the very nature of their game, are essentially man-robins albeit plucked of their feathers and beaks.
Coming together en masse outside of the clubhouse isn’t a natural state of play for them and yet every two years that is exactly what the cream of the crop from Europe and the US come out to do in pursuit of a trophy and some bragging rights. For the US, having lost the last three competitions, coming out on top on their home patch means a huge amount. In fact, they have eight losses in the last ten matches and unless they can swing events to their favour this year, the Ryder Cup threatens to become something of a European birthright.
Best Ever US Team?
Their captain and Tom Hanks stand-in, Davis Love III, has claimed that this US team are possibly the best group ever assembled whilst many are harbouring doubts about the quality of the European squad led by Darren Clarke. There have been murmuring about some of Clarke’s picks, with suggestions that he has played it safe by plumping for the likes of Lee Westwood, a player who can’t lay claim to having much form coming into this competition.
The captain is no fool, however, and will have carefully noted how previous captain, Paul McGinley, handled previous European contingents with an accommodating and inclusive style which left the Americans looking frayed at the edges by comparison.
In fact, following Europe’s 2014 win in Gleneagles, America decided to go an unusual route for them insofar as they summoned the spirit of the long dead labour activist, Joe Hill, and decided to Organise.
That is naturally where the similarities end in terms of the spirit of the thing but the US went and created their Ryder Cup Task Force, a body which Phil Mickelson was pivotal in creating. Whether this will be a force for good or an article of hubris that will keep the Europeans laughing for years after remains to be seen.
As noted above, it’s generally thought that the Americans have the superior lineup. This thinking is informed by the fact that Clarke has included six rookies as well as the aforementioned Westwood and the fact that, apparently, the Americans are gunning for revenge.
With their predilection for firearms, we fervently hope that they are thinking figuratively in that regard. The home side are favourites to win out but don’t underestimate the pressure that they will labour under. In addition to their recent woes, they are also acutely aware that America is the world’s most dominant golfing nation and therein lies one of the rubs; America is a nation with all the patriotic trimmings which that brings but Europe?
Show me a patriotic European and I’ll show you a wind-up merchant. How is it that a conglomerate of often times fractious nations can come together and continually put the greatest nation on earth to the sword? Beneath what flag do they rally? To Americans, it makes sense that they should be the best because, after all, their country is the best. And yet, they keep getting it wrong. So, for all the advantages that they possess on paper, when the goings gets tough, will they have the wherewithal to derail Clarke’s merry band of blow-ins?
So Who’s Going to Win?
The bookies seem to think so and have los Yanquis installed as odds-on favourites. This will not unduly bother the Europeans who, you suspect, are more than happy for the Americans to hog the headlines and bylines. They will also be delighted with the form of Rory McIlroy as the Northern Irishman has had two tournament wins in the last three weeks, including a sensational win at the season-ending FedEx Cup and in that type of form he has the ability to raise the spirits and games of those around him. He’s not the captain but be in doubt, McIlroy is the leader of this team.
Hazeletine is a par-72 course which measures a mighty 7,628 yards. Although it was hit by heavy rains last week, the weather is forecast to be fair for the match itself. By some accounts, it is set up for birdies so regardless of who wins, spectators might be in for some low-scoring rounds. Most of the Europeans come into this competition off the back of a weeks rest whereas many of the Americans have been on duty.
Galvanised by McIlroy’s win and some time off, the Europeans are arriving under the radar, novice and old-hand alike, confident of their recent record and gleefully aware of the pressure the Americans are under. The hosts have more of the obvious talent but Europe may well be able to pick up where they left off and win again. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy seeing the Americans lose in the Ryder Cup?! The best price for a European win comes courtesy of BetFair at a price of 2/1.