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Ryder Cup Betting Guide: Can the United States Turn this Thing Around?
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Ryder Cup Betting Guide: Can the United States Turn this Thing Around?

by Kevin KrestSeptember 23, 2021

In the first 25 Ryder Cups that were played every two years from 1927 to 1983, except for an eight year disruption during World War II, the United States went 15 – 4 against teams from Great Britain, 3 – 0 over Great Britain and Ireland then took the first three events against teams comprised of players from the continent of Europe. All of that changed in 1985, when Europe saw an influx of talented players, including major champions Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer.

In the last 17 competitions, Europe has won or retained the Cup 12 times, despite being a decided underdog in many of those events. The last Ryder Cup was held in 2018 at Le Golf National outside Paris, where the Europeans won eight matches in a row at one point after spotting the Americans a 3-0 lead and dusted the United States 17 ½ to 10 ½.

The 43rd Ryder Cup was postponed from 2020 due to Covid-19 and is being held at Whistling Straits on Wisconsin’s shores of Lake Michigan on a course that has hosted three PGA Championships as well as a U.S. Senior Open.

Our Ryder Cup 2021 Video

Ryder Cup Primer

The Ryder Cup is held biennially between 12 player teams from the United States and Europe with each team alternating as hosts of the event that is jointly operated by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe. It derives its name from the businessman from England, Sam Ryder, who donated the Trophy and began in 1927 at Worcester Country Club in the town of the same name in Massachusetts.

Each team is led by a captain, Steve Stricker for the United States and Padraig Harrington for Europe in 2021, who have a lot of responsibility for their teams. The two most visible tasks are adding their captains’ picks to automatic qualifiers to complete the team and putting together the pairings for each of the five different sessions that make up the Ryder Cup schedule.

Three different formats are utilized in the Ryder Cup: Foursomes, Four Ball and Singles matches, all contested using match play with no extra holes to break ties. Foursomes is more generally known as alternate shot, with the one of the two players on the team teeing off on the odd number holes and the other hitting first on the even-numbered holes, then they alternate shots until the ball is either put in the hole or their opponents concede a putt or the hole.

Four Ball is usually referred to as Best Ball in the United States and is the game many weekend golfers are familiar with, as all players in the group play their own ball and the team that has the lowest individual score wins the hole. If two players from opposing teams tie with the lowest score, then they end up tying the hole.

The singles format pits one player from each team in a round of match play, with the player with the lowest score winning the hole. Whoever wins the most holes wins the match and it ends on or before the 18th hole, ending in a tie if both players win the same number of holes.

For the Ryder Cup, four matches of Four Ball and Foursomes are played each of the first two days, so for each of those sessions, only eight of the twelve members of each team are on the course. Who to play and who to sit or rest is a very big part of the strategy for the event and one of the great aspects of second guessing the decisions of the respective captains.

The singles matches are played on the last day of the competition and every player on both teams is involved. At the conclusion of the matches, the team with the most overall points wins or retains the Ryder Cup, with the United States needing 14 ½ points to win it back and Europe retaining the Cup by earning 14 points.

European Ryder Cup Team

Europe uses two different point standings to determine their nine automatic qualifiers: Four players from the European Points List and Five Players from the World Points List. Padraig Harrington was given three captain’s picks and there was some concern expressed by the players that the European team wasn’t finalized until September 13th, less than two weeks before the event.

Former major winners Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Francesco Molinari are not on the European team, all of whom were instrumental in their defeat of the Americans in 2018, going 10-2-0 as a group.

  • Average Age: 34.5
  • Total Prior Ryder Cup Appearances: 41
  • Major Championship Victories: 7
  • Cumulative Ryder Cup Match Record: 77-45-24
  • Rookies: 3
  • Average Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR): 30

Jon Rahm: 26 years old, OWGR 1, Ryder Cups: 1, Ryder Cup Record: 1-2-0
Rahm is coming off a terrific season where he won the U.S. Open, finished second in the FedEx Cup and recorded 15 top ten finishes on the PGA Tour.

Viktor Hovland: 23, OWGR 13, Ryder Cup Rookie
The Norwegian won once, had 7 top ten finishes and missed just one cut in 24 PGA Tour events, rounding out the season with a fifth place finish in the FedEx Cup standings. He won the 2018 U.S. Amateur where he trailed for only a single hole in six matches at the Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Rory McIlroy: 32, OWGR 15, Ryder Cups: 5, Ryder Cup Record: 11-9-4
The four time major champion broke out a minor slump with a victory in the Wells Fargo Championship in May and will be making his sixth consecutive Ryder Cup team start for Europe.

Tyrell Hatton: 29, OWGR 19, Ryder Cups: 1, Ryder Cup record: 1-2-0
Hatton hasn’t been playing well recently, but he’s exhibited a lot of talent in the past and at least has Ryder Cup experience from 2018.

Paul Casey: 44, OWGR 23, Ryder Cups: 4, Ryder Cup record: 4-3-5
Casey is a great example of a player who elevates his game for the Ryder Cup, picking up six and a half points in 12 career matches.

Matt Fitzpatrick: 27, OWGR 27, Ryder Cups: 1, Ryder Cup record: 0-2-0
The Englishman wasn’t on the 2018 European team and hasn’t lived up to his potential with his recent play, finishing 73rd in the FedEx Cup and missing the final two tournaments in the playoffs.

Lee Westwood: 48, OWGR 34, Ryder Cups: 10, Ryder Cup record: 20-18-6
After competing in 10 consecutive events, Westwood wasn’t on the 2018 team, but he had a resurgent season and saved Captain Padraig Harrington from having to make a decision by qualifying on points.

Tommy Fleetwood: 30, OWGR 36, Ryder Cups: 1, Ryder Cup record: 4-1-0
Fleetwood had a very poor season by his standards and still managed to make the team on points, but he’s shown signs of rounding into form with two high finishes in Europe over the past month.

Shane Lowry: 34, OWGR 40, Ryder Cup Rookie
The former Open Championship winner, although a rookie in the Ryder Cup, brings a lot of toughness to the European team as one of only four major champions on the squad.

Sergio Garcia: 41, OWGR 43, Ryder Cups: 9, Ryder Cup Record: 22-12-7
The Spaniard is the all-time leader with 25.5 total Ryder Cup points, the same number as the entire U.S. team and as one of the two emotional leaders on the team, he was a slam dunk for Harrington to pick to return for his tenth appearance.

Ian Poulter: 45, OWGR 49, Ryder Cups: 9, Ryder Cup Record: 14-6-2
Poulter is the other player that lends leadership on and off the course, probably known far better for his Ryder Cup performances than any of his individual tournament accomplishments.

Bernd Wiesberger: 35, OWGR 61, Ryder Cup Rookie
The Austrian ended up making the team with his finish in the final tournament, possible knocking Justin Rose or Francesco Molinari out of consideration by Harrington.

UNITED STATES RYDER CUP TEAM

For the first time since 1993, neither Phil Mickelson nor Tiger Woods is on the Ryder Cup team for the United States despite Mickelson’s PGA Championship victory, but he’s still at Whistling Straits as a Vice Captain. Steve Stricker was able to make six Captain’s picks, but he didn’t really deviate much from the final point standings, passing over Patrick Reed in 11th and Webb Simpson in 13th in favor of Scottie Scheffler who ended up in 14th.

The length of Whistling Straits and the inconsistent health of Reed probably contributed to Stricker’s decision, with Scheffler 36th in driving distance, while Simpson was 134th and Reed at 151st. Overall, the United States team is stacked with seven of its member in the top ten in the OWGR and every player is in the top 21 in the world.

  • Average Age: 29
  • Major Championship Victories: 13
  • Cumulative Ryder Cup Match Record: 24-22-3
  • Rookies: 6
  • Average Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR): 9

Dustin Johnson: 37, OWGR 2, Ryder Cups: 4, Ryder Cup Record: 7-9-0
DJ’s play in the 2021 calendar year has been disappointing, especially the way he played to win the 2020 FedEx Cup and followed it up with a record setting Masters victory. He’s the oldest and most experienced member of the team and may need to set the stage on the course if the U.S. is to get the Cup back.

Collin Morikawa: 24, OWGR 3, Ryder Cup Rookie
The two-time major champion seems to thrive in big moments, and there will be plenty at the Ryder Cup even though his play seemed to wane near the end of the season, as he faded to 26th in the FedEx Cup after entering the playoffs on top of the standings.

Patrick Cantlay: 29, OWGR, Ryder Cup Rookie
Cantlay is probably the hottest American golfer, winning the BMW Championship to move into the lead in the FedEx Cup standings and then using his advantage to win the Tour Championship.

Xander Schauffele: 27, OWGR 5, Ryder Cup Rookie

The Olympic Gold Medalist was a Captain’s pick and although he has yet to win a major championship, he always seems to be in the mix and has President’s Cup experience.

Justin Thomas: 28, OWGR 6, Ryder Cups: 1, Ryder Cup Record: 4-1-0
The lone bright spot for the United States in 2018 was the play of the team of Thomas and Jordan Spieth, who went 3-1 when paired together and Thomas also won his singles match over Rory McIlroy.

Bryson DeChambeau: 28, OWGR 7, Ryder Cups: 1, Ryder Cup Record: 0-3-0
There is plenty of controversy surrounding DeChambeau and his ongoing feud with Brooks Koepka, but what’s more important is his generally unsatisfactory play since winning the Arnold Palmer Championship and then finishing third in The Players in March.

Brooks Koepka: 31, OWGR: 9, Ryder Cups: 2, Ryder Cup Record: 4-3-1
The last time we saw Koepka, he was withdrawing from the Tour Championship with a wrist injury that apparently has healed enough for him to play at Whistling Straits for a player who can be very instrumental if the U.S. is going to win the Cup.

Tony Finau: 32, OWGR 10, Ryder Cups: 1, Ryder Cup Record: 2-1
Finau finally broke through with his second career win at the Northern Trust in the playoffs, giving him some momentum coming into the Ryder Cup where he had a winning record in a losing effort for the team in 2018.

Harris English: 32, OWGR: 11, Ryder Cup Rookie
The four time PGA Tour winner added two of those in 2021 and ended up as a Captain’s pick by Stricker, who added to the Ryder Cup inexperience but also a steady presence on the team.

Jordan Spieth: 28, OWGR: 14, Ryder Cups: 3, Ryder Cup Record: 7-5-2
By winning his first tournament since 2017 at the Valero Texas Open, Spieth finally broke a multiple year slide and made him a no brainer of a pick for Stricker and he and Thomas may make the difference between winning and losing this week.

Daniel Berger: 28, OWGR: 16, Ryder Cup Rookie
Berger had a solid season, including a win at the AT&T Pro-Am and eight top ten finishes and only two missed cuts in 23 starts, concluding with an 11th place finish in the FedEx Cup.

Scottie Scheffler: 25, OWGR: 21, Ryder Cup Rookie
To use a team draft term, Stricker traded down to pick Scheffler, who has yet to win on the PGA Tour, although he was able to finish as the runner up in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and is long and accurate off the tee.

WILL EXPERIENCE BE THE DIFFERENCE?

There is a big disparity in Ryder Cup experience between the two teams, but for the United States, that might not be such a bad thing. Many of the players that were parts of the U.S. teams that lost seven of the last nine Cups are not playing at Whistling Straits, including Woods, Mickelson, Bubba Watson and even Steve Stricker.

Of the six U.S. players who have played in a Ryder Cup, four have winning records and only DeChambeau is without a win. That means there isn’t a lot of negativity in the memories of team members, at least not from their performances on the course.

Unfortunately for Europe, most of its successful experience comes from players ranked outside the top 30 players in the world, with the exception of Rory McIlroy who will probably need to be on his game for Europe to continue their trend of over performing and send the Americans away from Whistling Straits empty handed once again. Expect to see Harrington ride his top performers hard in the team matches, probably hiding his more questionable performers like Wiesberger and Hatton until the Sunday singles.

THE PRESIDENTS CUP FACTOR

Until the advent of the Presidents Cup in 1994, the Ryder Cup was the only competition of its type. Since then, Americans play a team made up of players from everywhere but Europe in the year between Ryder Cups, taking a bit of the novelty off the competitions.

Interestingly enough, the United States has won all but two of the Presidents Cup competitions, losing once and retaining the Cup in a tie in 2003. There have certainly been a lot of talented players on the International Team, including Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, Greg Norman, Louis Oosthuizen, Jason Day, Trevor Immelman, Hideki Matsuyama, KJ Choi and others, so it’s difficult to explain the difference in perfromance.

It’s hard to ignore the numbers, with the United States defeating the European team five times, losing twice and tying once from 1979 to 1993. Since the inception of the Presidents Cup, the Americans have won only three times in 12 Ryder Cup competitions. Perhaps it’s the singular focus the Europeans bring to the Ryder Cup and only having one qualifying process going on at a time that gives them an edge.

GETTING THE UNITED STATES PLAYERS TO BUY INTO THE TEAM

From the tense pairing of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to the acrimony between Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, the United States team seems more like a collection of selfish independent contractors than a group of players with a singular goal. The Europeans appear to bring more passion to the event and demonstrate more camaraderie both on and off the course, giving them a more relaxed attitude that they probably derive from playing as underdogs.

Since the media elevated the visibility of the Ryder Cup and the competition got more contentious in the 1990’s, the Americans seem to be playing with a lot more pressure and frankly, they haven’t performed very well under the stress. A handful of Captains, most notably Paul Azinger and Davis Love III, were able to get the most out of the United States team despite all of the negative baggage many of the players brought to the golf course.

Also, having four of the top players in the world forced to sit on the sidelines in each of the four team sessions can also cause problems on a squad if they don’t have a singular winning vision. Culturally, the Europeans are better suited to a team golf concept and it tends to show with their performances in the Ryder Cup.

WHAT TO EXPECT THIS WEEK

Steve Stricker is very well respected by the players and his lack of a major championship on his resume gives him a more egalitarian reputation. Also, after a big 17-11 win in 2016, the Americans may have been a bit overconfident in 2018 and the scheduling of the event itself was a disadvantage to the United States team.

The Ryder Cup was held in France just five days after the 2018 Tour Championship, which was an emotional victory for Tiger Woods with eleven United States team members in the field, compared with six of the Europeans. In addition, the course on which they played the Ryder Cup is a regular host of a European Tour event, so the home team was much more familiar with the layout and only one player, Justin Thomas, played in the tournament to gain an understanding of Le Golf National.

The Americans have odds at PointsBet of -190 to win the Cup and Jon Rahm is the favorite at +700 to win the most points on the week and Thomas at +550 to lead the United States in scoring. Expect this year’s Ryder Cup to look more like 2016 at Hazeltine and Thomas it’s anticipated that he will again start at least four matches and possibly five like he did in 2018.

Unlike last time, the United States team should be well rested and they’re once again playing on home soil in front of a partisan gallery on a course that Stricker has made sure to set up to suit his team’s strengths, a big advantage to being the hosts. Rahm and McIlroy will have to lead the Europeans because of the amount of depth the Americans have in their lineup.

Whistling Straits is a big boy golf course and if the wind blows as expected, it can be a taxing experience and Stricker has a luxury to spread out his players that Harrington probably won’t enjoy this time around. With the exception of all of the negative luggage the Americans are carrying, everything points to a United States victory and take a look at PointsBet for a full selection of Ryder Cup wagers.

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About The Author
Kevin Krest
Kevin Krest is the author of the PK Frazier series of four novels and the Beyond the Commentary blog with over 500 posts about the world of sports. Kevin covers golf, football and horse racing for and holds media credentials from the USGA, PGA, LPGA and Oaklawn Park. As a media member, Kevin has attended and written in depth pieces about the U.S. Open, the U.S. Women's Open and several other LPGA and PGA Tour Champions events.