150 days till the Ryder Cup: Are Team USA set for just a third victory in the 21st century?

There’s not long now and if the teams were to line-up today the home side might easily boast a round dozen of players ranked in the world’s top 20.

How neat that in the week that the PGA Tour has its annual flirtation with pairs golf, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, we will also hit 150 days till the start of Ryder Cup week.

The delayed match will take place at Whistling Straits, north of Chicago on the banks of Lake Michigan, on September 24-26.

It's a home match for the Americans and captain Steve Stricker is a Michigan native so, in theory, it's a perfect fit.

But, in many respects, there is just as much for Europe's chief Padraig Harrington to be excited about.

The course is links in style and, while we must always be wary of modern attempts to recreate the origins of the sport, the blustery nature of the location will make many of the visitors feel at home.

It's also true, however, that plenty of Americans play perfectly good golf in windy conditions at the Open while Rory McIlroy, for example, famously doesn't.

Perhaps a more important feature is the Irish support expected from Chicago-based members of the gallery - indeed the Emerald Isle roots in this area are even emphasised by the name of Whistling Straits' second layout: the Irish Course.

Let's take a closer look at the possible make-up of the two teams and then also ponder a few often suggested pointers to see if we can glean any value in the current prices.

Team USA - as it stands

Currently qualifying from the points list: Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka.

Next in line: Patrick Reed, Tony Finau, Webb Simpson.

Other names to consider: Daniel Berger, Jordan Spieth, Billy Horschel, Patrick Cantlay, Harris English, Scottie Scheffler, Will Zalatoris. Maybe Kevin Kisner?

A strong line-up

Rather than hazard any fanciful suggestions, let's assume that Scheffler and Zalatoris continue to make headway in the game, that Spieth's resurgence is not short-lived, that Horschel doesn't burn himself out, and that Reed, Finau, Simpson and Cantlay continue the form that has got them into this position in the first place.

The two captains - all smiles for now.
The two captains - all smiles for now.

Realistically, at least one of them, and maybe two or three, will perform below those assumptions and one or two above.

But any six of those eight would complete an exceptional team on paper.

Consider this: if the team were selected now, eight of them would be ranked in the world's top 10 (assuming Stricker selected them) and since 1999 USA has never topped six in that count.

It would also be possible for all 12 American players to be ranked in the top 20 and that hasn't happened in the same period - it had 11 in 2012 and 2018.

The obvious counter is: big deal, they lost in 2012 and 2018.

Team Europe - as it stands

Currently in the team via European points: Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy.

Added via the World points: Lee Westwood, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Victor Perez, Paul Casey, Viktor Hovland.

Names currently next in the lists: Bernd Wiesberger, Robert MacIntyre, Sergio Garcia.

Other possibilities for wildcards: Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell, Matt Wallace.

A bit more complex

Necessarily, with its two qualification criteria, the make-up of the European team is a little more difficult to nail down.

It's also true that there simply aren't as many European firing on all cylinders.

Of those currently not set to qualify by right only Robert MacIntyre might be said to be unquestionably travelling in the right direction.

There have been signs of form from Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose, but only that.

Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell would be good fits for the challenge in that there is likely to be that strong Irish contingent among the galleries - although that, in itself, is another murky question because how many will be permitted to watch?

Both Lowry and McDowell excel in windy conditions, but Harrington will be wary of picking them unless their form absolutely demands it lest he look green-eyed in his motives.

The European leader's voluntary reduction of wildcard picks from four to three is typically shrewd.

He argues that selected players have to justify their selection in the match itself and it often unduly affects performance in contrast to the man who qualified by right and can play with no point to prove.

Given that thinking, he may also lean towards experienced picks which means someone like Wiesberger will be thinking he needs to get in by right.

Harrington may also recall Thomas Bjorn's wildcard policy. Widely reported as being tilted in the direction of Ryder Cup veterans it was actually rather more specific: the Dane went for players he knew had a proven positive impact on team spirit.

Pointers from the last 10 Ryder Cups

Can we learn anything from this year's golf?

What about the WGC Dell Match Play? Billy Horschel won it last month, defeating fellow American Scottie Scheffler in the final. Surely that's a good omen for Stricker's men?

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In point of fact, the nationality of the WGC match play winner is a duff predictor, landing the win just three times in 10 attempts and the final line-up is only marginally better at 4 out of 10.

Even if you look at the semi-finalists there is little to emerge - the continent with most players making the final four has gone on to claim the Ryder Cup just three times.

World rankings then? They've got to be worth something, right?

That, of course, was the argument ahead of Paris 2018 - and look how that went.

The French Ryder Cup was also on-trend, rather than bucking one: the team with the most players in the world's top 10 has won only three times in 10.

And the world's top 20? Another rotter that has called the Ryder Cup result just three times in 10.

Yet another common call ahead of the 2018 match was the American domination in the Major Championships, but that is yet another bogus gauge.

In fact it's the worst of the lot: the continent landing more Majors in the year of a Ryder Cup has won only once in the last 10 matches.


Maybe it's a case of flipping the perspective?

The key to Ryder Cup success in recent years has been the assumption of American dominance and European reaction to that common wisdom.

So let's take the least successful indicator … and turn it around.

Since 1999, every time there have been more American Major wins that European, it is the Europeans who have won the Cup.

Moreover, Europe's four strongest Major performing years have reaped its three worst Ryder Cup efforts: in 1999 and 2016 the Major count was 2-2 and Europe lost both times. In 2008 Europe won the count 2-1 and lost the Cup in emphatic style.

Which means, of course, that Hideki Matsuyama's win at Augusta National earlier this month tells us absolutely nothing.

One down, three to go. Keep your eyes peeled at Kiawah Island, Torrey Pines and Sandwich.

Just don't draw the obvious conclusion.

USA are currently a best price of 8/11 with Unibet. Europe 7/4 with Bet365. The draw is 12/1 with Unibet.

As it currently stands, only a brave fellow would lump on the home side.

READ MORE: Bryson DeChambeau baffled by Augusta but could still be a Major force this year

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