Sport360's James Piercy and Joy Chakravarty debate whether the less-fancied holders can make it four tournament triumphs in succession.
Ryder Cup holders Team Europe are considered outsiders to get their hands on the trophy again, two years on since their triumph in Gleanagles.
Today’s #360debate asks: Will Europe overcome Team USA to retain the Ryder Cup?
USA captain Davis Love III has already set the bar pretty high by declaring his team (before he had selected the 12th and final member) are, “the best golf team maybe ever assembled.”
Either he genuinely means it, or it’s an attempt at an early psychological boost for his team. Given he isn’t known for being particularly arrogant or outspoken, you’re drawn towards the latter.
Because Love, who won two Ryder Cups as a player but also lost four, knows despite superior reputations and rankings, home surroundings, the Americans will still tee off on Thursday with a sizeable disadvantage – the knowledge of having lifted the trophy just once in the last 12 years.
This year (not including last night’s 12th man) the average ranking of each team is 14.8 to 27.3 in favour of the US; in 2014 it was 16.3 to 19.9; in 2012, 12.2 to 18.9 and 2010; 17.3 to 18.3. But on each of the latter three occasions the Stars and Stripes fell short.
Rankings and form is an excellent place to start but you need more than that to actually win the thing. The secret formula is an abstract concept which only really lends itself to this tournament – teamwork.
As most players agree the atmosphere among Europeans tends to be more cordial than the individualistic ways of the PGA Tour.
Love undoubtedly has a hugely talented team but six of his 10 players who have performed in previous Ryder Cups before hold a 50 per cent or less win percentage, with Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and JB Holmes’ figures a small sample size given they hold one cap each. Of Europe’s six ‘non-rookies’, the lowest is Henrik Stenson’s 54.55.
Granted, Europe’s six newcomers are probably Darren Clarke’s biggest cause for concern but in Europe’s win in 2010 they had the same amount, while in the triumphs in 1997 and 2004 it was five, meaning it doesn’t carry as much of a burden as is being forecast.
Added to that is the relative pressure-free environment of not playing at home, being underdogs against a US team desperate for victory and under intense scrutiny and expectation to achieve it.
The Ryder Cup is one tournament where reputations, rankings and form do not matter. The unique dynamics of a team competition does not care for any of these factors which seem to make such a difference in individual strokeplay format.
You just have to look at what happened in Medinah four years ago to appreciate how quickly and inexplicably fortunes can change. Having said that, Team USA’s luck seems to be stuck when it comes to the Ryder Cup.
They have lost at home and away. They have lost when favourites, and also when they weren’t. The team that dominated until the mid 1980s, has lost eight out of the last 10 editions.
However, that stat is about to change this year. Hazeltine on Sunday will be awash with Red. Most stats and form would suggest that the Americans have the edge, but the most definitive one is the average world ranking of the two teams.
The average ranking of the 11 Americans is 14.8, almost half of Europe’s 27.3. The top of the teams looks balanced. While the Americans have the world No2 Dustin Johnson and No4 Jordan Spieth, Europe’s challenge is led by No3 Rory McIlroy and No5 Henrik Stenson.
But what skews it in America’s favour is that while all players named in the team so far are ranked inside the top-27, seven European players are ranked below 27.
Obviously, home advantage is also going to be another huge factor in favour of the Americans, which is expected to affect the six European rookies.
Team USA also have embraced the European way of naming vice-captains who are peers of the team members. Presence of guys like Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk as vice-captains, would be inspirational. But more than anything else, it feels like Davis Love’s men have more hunger.
It’s refreshing to hear Jordan Spieth saying he’d rather win a Ryder Cup than FedEx, and someone like Phil Mickelson trying new clubs during the Tour Championship to be prepared for next week.
I’d say 16-12 to the Americans!