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It is the turn of Europe to host the Ryder Cup this year and Gleneagles in Perthshire plays host to the prestigious event.
USA captain, Tom Watson has the unenviable task of defying the odds to produce an American victory, but given he was the last man to preside over an American victory on European soil (back in 1993), he’s arguably the best man for the job. Paul McGinley captains the European side for the first time, but he has experience of taking the helm at similar team events having captained the GB & Ireland side to victory in both the 2009 and 2011 Seve Trophies.
Before we go any further, let’s take a look at the last 10 Ryder Cup results:
2012 – Medinah Country Club – Europe wins 14.5 – 13.5
2010 – Celtic Manor Resort – Europe wins 14.5 – 13.5
2008 – Valhalla Golf Club – USA wins 16.5 – 11.5
2006 – The K Club – Europe wins 18.5 – 9.5
2004 – Oakland Hills – Europe wins 18.5 – 9.5
2002 – The Belfry – Europe wins 15.5 – 12.5
1999 – Brookline – USA wins 14.5 – 13.5
1997 – Valderrama – Europe wins 14.5 – 13.5
1995 – Oak Hill – Europe wins 14.5 – 13.5
1993 – The Belfry – USA wins 15 – 3
Before delving any deeper, what is clear from studying these results is that Europe are very much the rightful favourites having won 7 of the last 10 Ryder Cups. Furthermore, they have won the last four Ryder Cups that have been hosted on European soil. Four of Europe’s wins listed above have seen a winning score of 14.5 – 13.5 which would make that, stastically-speaking, the most likely result. However, the state of the US team heading into this year’s event has to be taken into account. As well as the team being without big names such as Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson, the European team can boast 3 of the 4 major championship wins of 2014 and better overall form over the last few months.
I can’t personally be tempted into backing a Europe win at best odds of 4/6, but I’m confident of a relatively comfortable victory and am heading to the Correct Score market for inspiration:
Europe to win 15.5 – 12.5 @ 10/1
Europe to win 16.5 – 11.5 @ 14/1
Europe to win 17.5 – 10.5 @ 25/1
Next up, let’s look at the members of both sides and their Ryder Cup records to date:
Thomas Bjorn - Played 6, Won 3, Lost 2, Halved 1 = Total Points 3.5
Jamie Donaldson – Debut
Victor Dubuisson – Debut
Stephen Gallacher – Debut
Sergio Garcia - Played 28, Won 16, Lost 8, Halved 4 = Total Points 18
Martin Kaymer - Played 6, Won 3, Lost 2, Halved 1 = Total Points 3.5
Rory McIlroy - Played 9, Won 4, Lost 3, Halved 2 = Total Points 5
Ian Poulter - Played 15, Won 12, Lost 3, Halved 0 = Total Points 12
Justin Rose - Played 9, Won 6, Lost 3, Halved 0 = Total Points 6
Henrik Stenson - Played 7, Won 2, Lost 3, Halved = Total Points 3
Lee Westwood - Played 37, Won 18, Lost 13, Halved 6 = Total Points 21
Keegan Bradley - Played 4, Won 3, Lost 1, Halved 0 = Total Points 3
Rickie Fowler - Played 3, Won 0, Lost 1, Halved 2 = Total Points 1
Jim Furyk - Played 30, Won 9, Lost 17, Halved 4 = Total Points 11
Zach Johnson - Played 11, Won 6, Lost 4, Halved 1 = Total Points 6.5
Matt Kuchar - Played 7, Won 3, Lost 2, Halved 2 = Total Points 4
Hunter Mahan - Played 8, Won 3, Lost 2, Halved 3 = Total Points 4.5
Phil Mickelson - Played 38, Won 14, Lost 18, Halved 6 = Total Points 17
Patrick Reed - Debut
Webb Simpson - Played 4, Won 2, Lost 2, Halved 0 = Total Points 2
Jordan Spieth - Debut
Jimmy Walker - Debut
Bubba Watson - Played 11, Won 5, Lost 5, Halved 1 = Total Points 5.5
On paper, the top men in the European side are Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter. Westwood has played the most matches which partly explains his large points total. That said, his overall record is not to be sniffed at, but the Englishman comes here off the back of his worst season in a number of years, so I’m happy to swerve him. Poulter doesn’t seem to require current form in order to produce his best golf in the cauldron of a Ryder Cup tournament, but I can’t help but be slightly put off by his indifferent performances in the last few months. Garcia, however, has the deadly combination of good current form (with four top-10 finishes in his last six starts) and an excellent Ryder Cup record, especially on European soil where he has produced records of 4-1-0 and 3-2-0 in his last two appearances. Seeing as a European player has topped the combined points table in five of the last six Ryder Cups, we may as well boost our odds by taking the Spaniard in this market as opposed to Top European.
Sergio Garcia to be top combined points scorer @ 12/1
The Top American market is a much trickier one to try and predict in my mind. Phil Mickelson has a solid enough Ryder Cup record, but his game has not been in good nick lately. Rickie Fowler has obvious claims as a player in great form who played well in the WGC-Matchplay earlier this year, but has limited Ryder Cup experience to draw on. Veteran Jim Furyk was tempting given his current form and the fact his game should be a good fit for Gleneagles, but his overall (and indeed recent) Ryder Cup record doesn’t inspire confidence. To summarise, I’m a firm believer that if you’re struggling to find a good bet in any particular market, it should be left alone, so I will keep my powder dry in this instance.
One market that does interest me, however, is that of Top Debutant. There are six debutants in the field (three on either side), and I believe a big factor in this particular market is considering how much golf each player is likely to play over the course of the three days. My suspicion is that Paul McGinley may not use either Stephen Gallacher or Victor Dubuisson in great abundance, and the same will likely apply to Patrick Reed and Jimmy Walker on the American side. Jordan Spieth heads this particular betting market and with his immense talent is certainly a danger. However, he comes here off the back of a very disappointing showing in the Tour Championship. Jamie Donaldson, on the other hand, comes here off the back of a very nice run of form in Europe culminating in a tie for 4th last week in Wales, and he also has experience of team matchplay having played in the last two Seve Trophies.
Jamie Donaldson top debutant @ 9/2
The third event of the FedEx Cup playoffs gets underway on Thursday and the top-70 in the FedEx Cup standings (minus Dustin
Johnson, of course) make the trip to Denver, Colorado for the BMW Championship.
The host course is Cherry Hills Country Club – a course we know little about with the most recent significant event hosted here being the 1985 PGA Championship. William Flynn is the course designer, however, so we can look at other courses to which he is credited including the East Course at Merion (host of last year’s US Open) and Westchester Country Club (which hosted The Barclays up until 2007).
The course is a 7,352 Par 70 layout which may sound lengthy – but we should take into account an altitude of over 5,000 feet which makes the course a more ‘average’ yardage in real terms. Steven Fox won the 2012 US Amateur Championship here at Cherry Hills, and he tells me on Twitter that "the rough is nasty and greens are firm and fast! Fairways are key" which confirms my suspicions that accuracy is more important than distance here.
Having turned in a supreme display to win the recent Barclays event, Hunter Mahan was never likely to be far from my thoughts this week, and I’m unperturbed by his mediocre showing in Boston last week as a hangover from victory is incredibly common in golf. Provided he can shake of the hangover this week, Mahan ticks all the right boxes for Cherry Hills. First and foremost, he is one of the best drivers of the ball on the PGA tour, currently ranking 3rd in Driving Accuracy, secondly he’s comfortable on Poa Annua greens as proven by his win at Ridgewood Country Club, and lastly he played very well at the aforementioned Merion in last year’s US Open where he finished in a tie for 4th.
Having scraped into the top-100 to progress to last week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, Geoff Ogilvy certainly made the most of this with an excellent showing at TPC Boston where he eventually finished in a tie for 2nd. Ogilvy may not be straight as an arrow off the tee, but he’s not wild either, and encouragingly, he’s one of the best at getting the ball near the hole when he does find himself in the long stuff – ranking 8th on tour in Rough Proximity. Ogilvy has previous form at Westchester Country Club - another William Flynn design – where he tied for 4th in the 2007 Barclays tournament. Furthermore, Ogilvy is comfortable playing at high altitude having won the Barracuda Championship in Reno just a few weeks ago.
My research of William Flynn courses has revealed two veritable experts on such designs – one is Phil Mickelson who won the US Amateur here at Cherry Hills in 1990 (but whose game looks worryingly out of sorts) and the other is Ernie Els who has been playing some solid golf over the last few weeks. Indeed, having failed to notch a single strokeplay top-10 until August, the veteran has two to his name in his last four starts – a tie for 7th in the PGA Championship and a tie for 5th at The Barclays (on similar Poa Annua greens to that of Cherry Hills). Els may not have played his best golf last week at TPC Boston, but recent top-5s at both Merion and Westchester suggest that Cherry Hills should be right up his street.
Local knowledge is never a bad thing, and Kevin Stadler is one of very few players in the field who will have played a decent number of rounds at Cherry Hills ahead of this week’s event. The 34-year-old is a resident of Denver and admits to having played several practice rounds here on his weeks off from competitive golf. Being accustomed to playing at altitude is just as valuable as knowledge of Cherry Hills itself in my mind, and there were positive signs last week that a big week could be round the corner for Stadler as he ranked joint 1st in GIR at TPC Boston.