The Ryder Cup is one of the most exciting events in professional golf, and it’s also one of the most underrated. The Ryder Cup is a biennial tournament where U.S. based golfers compete against European golfers. This year, the Ryder Cup will be held at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. It kicks off on September 30th and will go until October 2nd. The tournament was established in 1927, and although it’s a high profile professional sporting event, participants receive no prize money within the competition. This is just about the best golfers in the world coming together and competing to see which continent will dominate. The defending champion is the European Tour team, but there’s a chance that this could change in 2016.
The dynamics of a Ryder Cup are always very exciting. It’s not just about having a lower overall score, but about the captain of each team perfecting their pairings so that the right golfer is going against a good competitor, matched to their ability. And scoring for the Ryder Cup is also quite different as it is about which golfer comes up on top within these pairings, and not just who has the lowest score. It’s much different than we’re used to, making it a lot of fun to watch.
The U.S. is currently the favorite for the 2016 Ryder Cup, but that’s not really a surprise. The captain of the European team, Darren Clarke, recently made this argument on television. The U.S. tends to be a favorite going into this tournament. Overall, the Americans have more talent and more experience going into the tournament, and this is clearly to their advantage. However, it’s tough to make the argument that the U.S. is the favorite for the big international game when you look at the history of the outcome of the last several meetings.
So while the American team is much better on paper than the Euro team is, momentum is working against the U.S. Having the home field has never proven to be an advantage in the past in golf like it has in other sports, so this perceived U.S. advantage is not an actual help to them. The two most recent U.S. wins were on U.S. soil, though.
For the U.S., the top golfers on the team currently include Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Jimmy Walker, and Brooks Koepka. Of these top five, Jimmy Walker is definitely the most concerning. He has had a rough season, missing the cut at the Open Championship and the U.S. Open Championship. He’s currently ranked number four for the U.S., but only a little bit ago wasn’t even ranked in the top 25. This is another advantage to European team, especially if he ends up being ranked highly for the team.
The European team is younger than the U.S. team, and doesn’t have the same level of experience in a professional setting, which is a big advantage for the U.S. team. However, it would be foolish to dismiss the fact that this tournament has traditionally been more important to the Europeans than it has to the Americans, and although the U.S. is stronger in theory, it’s likely that the Euro Tour team will come in with a bigger desire for the win. Of the last ten Ryder Cup matches, the Europeans have won eight times; 1999 and 2008 were the only ones to go to the U.S.
But really, isn’t that kind of uncertainty what makes the Ryder Cup so much fun to watch? We get to see the best of the best face off. Golfers that are usually rivals are now on the same team, and golfers that might be good friends are suddenly rivals. The individual aspect of the game disappears for a few days, and golfers team up to battle for the pride of their home country.