With the 44th edition of golf’s greatest team event teeing off on Friday from Italy’s Marco Simone Country Club, can Europe claim victory against a USA team looking to win away from home for the first time in 30 years?
For the last four iterations of the biennial Ryder Cup, it’s the hosts who have claimed victory. Still, the manner of the last USA win was troubling for European golf fans.
Each team boasts formidable line-ups
Two years ago, Europe suffered a humbling defeat at Whistling Straits, the Americans cruising to a record 19-9 victory.
Such was the emphatic nature of that win, there was concern that after years of European domination, the wheel had turned. The American pool of talent looked so stacked, the prospect of a decade of insufferable U-S-A, U-S-A victory chants seemed a genuine possibility.
Maybe it could still turn out that way. But each team boasts formidable line-ups; while the US’s Scottie Scheffler is ranked no.1 in the world, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland are second, third and fourth respectively.
The USA are 7/10 favourites to win in Italy this week, with Team Europe trailing at 11/10. But even if the Americans start strong, European captain Luke Donald can perhaps take some inspiration from his Solheim Cup counterpart, Suzann Pettersen.
Last weekend, the Norwegian captain oversaw Europe’s retention of the trophy (for a record-breaking third win in a row) despite having gone 4-0 down to the USA in Friday’s opening session.
Donald will hope such a comeback is unnecessary, of course. The Englishman wasn’t even the original choice for Ryder Cup captain, with Henrik Stenson initially taking the role. But when the Swede got caught up in a dispute between the LIV and DP World Tours, Donald was asked to step in.
Ludvig Aberg has won already since turning pro in June
Europe conceivably have some other factors in their favour; two of the players in their team have already won on this layout. First time Ryder Cup player Nicolai Hojgaard won the Italian Open here two years ago. And Robert MacIntyre, a fellow newcomer to this event, won in a playoff here last year.
And Donald has also bought some interesting young players into the mix here. Ludvig Aberg only turned professional in June. But the Swede has already landed his first pro win, triumphing at the Omega European Masters earlier this month.
But Europe will also have to do without some of their more experienced Ryder Cup names. Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter all miss out this time, after choosing to play on the lucrative LIV Tour.
In fact, both teams will be without familiar faces, with neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson involved this time for the visitors. It’s the first time in three decades that both these veterans will be absent.
Nonetheless, the USA team still has plenty of established stars. Even if there are questions about whether some of them should have made the cut.
Justin Thomas was a captain’s pick. But while he’s obviously a leading light in US golf, he’s been off the pace for much of 2023. Some observers have suggested Thomas’s recent form meant captain Zach Johnson should have looked elsewhere – like the LIV Tour for instance.
Bryson Dechambeau is annoyed at being left out
Johnson has picked only one LIV Tour player, Brooks Koepka – and that selection is based on Koepka having won the PGA Championship back in May.
It’s perhaps no surprise that another outspoken LIV Tour player, Bryson Dechambeau has voiced his annoyance at being left out of the US team. But maybe Dechambeau, who was unbeaten at the Ryder Cup in 2021, has a case?
Despite talk of American dominance a few years ago, there are several players on the US team without a Tour win this year. Including Patrick Cantlay, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. Even Scheffler has some flaws, with his putting unreliable.
With Donald enjoying home advantage and the Europeans available at a slightly bigger price, despite the USA’s failure to bring home the bacon on foreign soil once in the last 30 years, backing the hosts makes sense. But this could be a tighter affair than in recent years. Europe to win by between 1-3 points at 10/3 could be worth a look.
Otherwise, backing Jon Rahm as overall top points scorer at 11/1 might also be worth a dabble. Rahm has four tournament wins this year, including the Masters. In his previous two Ryder Cup appearances he’s claimed four wins from eight matches. Top scorer for Europe last time, the Spanish star may step up and become top overall scorer at Marco Simone…