Ryder Cup just a month away: conventional wisdom says USA hold aces, unconventional wisdom disagrees

Padraig Harrington and Steve Stricker will lead their teams to Whistling Straits in late September – the American team looks strong, but doesn’t it always?

Not long now.

We've had to wait three years for the latest Ryder Cup, but now it is a mere month away (we even get to enjoy a Solheim Cup two weeks before: two continental plate collisions for the price of one this year).

The delayed clash 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 potential European plus 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: Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele.

Next in line: Jordan Spieth, Harris English, Patrick Reed.

Other names to consider: Daniel Berger, Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Webb Simpson, Scottie Scheffler, Jason Kokrak, Will Zalatoris. Maybe Kevin Kisner, Phil Mickelson?!

A strong line-up. Indeed, an exceptional one on paper.

Steve Stricker could have eight of the world's top 10 in his roster and since 1999 USA has never topped six in that count.

It's also entirely possible that all 12 Americans will be ranked in the top 20 and that hasn't happened in the same period. The most it had was 11 in 2012 and 2018.

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

Team Europe: as it stands

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

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

Names currently next in the lists: Bernd Wiesberger, Victor Perez, Robert MacIntyre, Ian Poulter.

Other possibilities for wildcards: Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Matt Wallace.

Judging this dozen is a little 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.

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

He argues that captain's picks feel the need 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 attack the match with no point to prove.

Given that thinking, he may also lean towards experienced selections and 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 which is, of course, the same format? Billy Horschel won it, defeating fellow American Scottie Scheffler in the final. Surely that's a good omen for Stricker's men?

In point of fact, the nationality of the WGC match play winner is a poor predictor of Ryder Cup success, landing the win just three times in 10 attempts and using 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? That, of course, was the argument ahead of Paris 2018 - and look how that went.

The French Ryder Cup was also very 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? Once again, a rotten method that has called the result just three times in 10.

A frequent suggestion ahead of the 2018 match was that the American domination in the Major Championships would prove key, 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 not been American-on-paper-power, but Europe's reaction to that common wisdom.

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

Since 1999, every time there have been more American Major wins than 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 the identities of this year's Majors are potentially prophetic, just not in the way most folk would assume.

And the fact that the Americans won that initial battle 2-1 (Phil Mickelson and Collin Morikawa versus Jon Rahm) is actually very bad news for them.

USA are currently a best price of 8/13 with BetVictor. Europe 2/1 with Bet365. The draw is 12/1 with Unibet.

Conventional wisdom says a home win, unconventional wisdom argues otherwise.

READ MORE: Europe's Solheim Cup team announced for defence bid in Ohio

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