One for the team: Team Europe looks good to trounce the Americans at the Ryder Cup

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September 19, 2021 4:45 AM

As far as the Ryder Cup is concerned, it's a bit like placing the easiest bet in roulette. It's got to be Red or Black (in this case blue), and perhaps that's why people fancy that the biennial event is literally, their best bet, of the season.

Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter made it to Team Europe as a Captain's pickRyder Cup star Ian Poulter made it to Team Europe as a Captain's pick

“So, who’re you rooting for at the Ryder Cup?” I’ve been asked that a few times on the golf course this month. It’s usually just snuck in there, expertly couched between disconnected bits of conversation, as a harmless query, casual small talk as it were. People assume that your columnist, (by dint of being just that) might have some insider information to beat the odds. But outcomes in golf are even harder to predict than in other sports, and all you can do is make an educated guess.

As far as the Ryder Cup is concerned, it’s a bit like placing the easiest bet in roulette. It’s got to be Red or Black (in this case blue), and perhaps that’s why people fancy that the biennial event is literally, their best bet, of the season.

Now, I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I’d start with the obvious pointers that odds are based on — numbers. If that’s the irrefutable proof for you, then this Ryder Cup is no-brainer. Team Europe’s captain, Padraig Harrington, speaking to The Golf Channel, plainly admitted that his team are —as far as rankings and recent performances go — the undisputed underdogs. “If it was a computer generating the results this week, then the Europeans needn’t turn up!” Harrington said with no trace of self-deprecation. He qualified that dismissal by pointing out that “…there’s more to it than that. We pull together, and we get the most out of our team.”

True that. Curiously—given the fact that Europe has won eight of the last nine editions of the Ryder Cup—the Continentals always seem to be the less-fancied team before things get underway. 2021 is no exception: the American squad looks so much stronger —at least on paper. This argument, presented to a gent that I was recently partnered with, elicited a sceptical shake of the head. “That’s fine, but what do your instincts say?” he asked sceptically. I wanted to tell him, that if I was, in fact, a betting man, then I’d never divulge that information. And yes, of course the whole stats-based conclusion is based on a fallacious premise, and much like him, I wouldn’t put my money on the favourites either.

If this sounds mystifying to you, then a short explanation will clarify where I’m coming from. To use a golf analogy, a golf swing is a sum of moving parts — the fewer the better. Or at least that’s the conventional wisdom when it comes to a cohesive, consistent, compact action that doesn’t break down under pressure. And that’s a pretty good model for an effective team as well. Given that, Team America just appears to have way too many moving parts to convince me that it’ll be able to come together to get the job done at Whistling Straits. With no malice to players like Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth — who by all accounts seem to really care about the Ryder Cup —I’d be dejected if the Cup stayed in the United States. The Americans, or at least the biggest individual stars — Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau — just don’t seem to buy into what the Ryder Cup is all about. DeChambeau, recently moaned about his ‘hands being wrecked,’ by the prep he’s been putting in to compete at the Long Drive Championships that are slated to be held a couple of days after the Ryder Cup. Not to be outdone, when quizzed by Golf Digest magazine about the Ryder Cup week, Koepka candidly admitted that he found it, “…a bit odd, if I’m honest.” and went on to gripe on how it changes his routine, but insisted that, “I don’t want to say it’s a bad week.”

Thank you Brooks! Very charitable of you to not say that!

As a golf commentator the interview was a hoot to read but I can just imagine Team America’s Captain Steve Stricker’s reaction: I mean he must have been pretty livid. Especially when Koepka closed with gems like, “There are times where I’m like, I won my match. I did my job. What do you want from me?”I know how to take responsibility for the shots I hit every week. Now, somebody else hit a bad shot and left me in a bad spot, and I know this hole is a loss.” Oh boy. I don’t know what Stricker is going to do with Koepka; who can he possibly partner him with now? Good luck in the locker room Brooks!

On the other hand you’ve got players like Billy Horschel who, in his own words, was ‘gutted,’ not to get a call to be on the team. “I didn’t think the call was going to say I made the team, but I was a little gutted I didn’t get a call to say, ‘Hey, you know, you didn’t make the team,'” Horschel said after channeling his disappointment to win the BMW PGA Championship last week.

On the other hand you have the Europeans. Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Shane Lowry made it to the squad as Captain’s picks. Harrington put aside personal differences with Garcia to pick the Spaniard.”Myself and Sergio will be an interesting case. We’ve obviously been competitors nearly all our career. It’s well publicised we wouldn’t necessarily have got on. The Ryder Cup is bigger than that. I’ve always appreciated Sergio’s golf and I’ve always seen how good he is in the Ryder Cup and what he gives in the team environment,” said Harrington. Garcia, who’s Europe’s all-time record points scorer in the Cup (22-12-7) was equally gracious, taking responsibility for some of the acrimony that existed between the two players and is now a thing of the past. It’s important to note though that, if it wasn’t, Garcia and Harrington would have still found a way to work together, because this is the Ryder Cup! And it means something to them.

A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game

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