The Ryder Cup or Circus Maximus will be played next week at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club just outside of Rome. I’m predicting a European rout over the USA very similar to the last affair where the USA routed Team Europe.
While as a partisan patriotic American, I would like to see a different outcome but these matches maybe shaping up as the 21st century version of the Lions vs. the Christians in the Coliseum. The Team Captains are Zach Johnson for the US and Luke Donald for Europe. These guys are former Ryder Cup players and will be very good for their squads since they have extensive experience and will be fairly equal in all management respects. My bet is on Europe for the following reasons:
- Home field advantage-The USA has not won the Cup on foreign soil in 30 years.
- European golf fans take this even far more seriously than the US golf fan in the main. The crowds will be a positive factor as this event blasphemes all golf etiquette as we cheer on Ole’, Ole’ for every bad shot or missed putt that the US will hit. There will be catcalls in back swings and hoots and howls as the American player plays while the crowd will be saying the rosary while the European player putts.
- Rory McIlroy is playing well. McIlroy is the superstar of Team Europe, who is a leader of the team and has some scores to settle from the last event. As he goes, so will Team Europe.
- Team Europe is playing well. Hovland won the PGA Tour Championship, Jon Rahm is probably player of the year with 4 victories on Tour including the Masters. Fleetwood has had a great year and Terrell Hatton will be ferocious as usual in match play.
- Team Europe seems to behave like a team, whereas the USA seems to be a bunch of individuals with some exceptions as the relationships of Speith, Thomas and Fowler create some nucleus for the USA.
- The course set up will favor the Europeans a little bit but it is another positive factor as long driving will be rewarded. The Europeans have a bit of an advantage in this space.
- Team Europe professionals recently competed in the BMW Championship at Wentworth, which is one of the best closing events of the year on the DP World Tour and this adds to the adrenalin leading up to the Cup. The USA guys generally skipped the PGA Event in Napa, California but some good news was that Justin Thomas played very well and finished third.
The USA has its strengths but the players had good seasons earlier in the year and weren’t playing at peak form going into the Cup matches. The media keep criticizing Scottie Scheffler’s putting, which is critical in the Ryder Cup, but his tee to green play is still hot and the putter is a capricious instrument that may change the outcome. Scheffler should be effective in the first few days in fourball competition. Brooks Koepka is a keen, steely competitor, who should do well in Rome and maybe break a few of Team Europe’s eggs. Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler could also surprise as well as they are highly motivated to demonstrate that they belong and can contribute to team USA. Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay were playing well down the stretch on tour so they will provide some fireworks for the USA side. On balance, I don’t there is enough USA firepower to overcome the way Team Europe has been playing especially at the end of the year.
Team Europe will be missing some USA killers such as Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter whose thorns will be missing due to their expulsion from the DP World Tour. Team Europe still seems the overwhelming favorite but you still have to play the matches so it will undoubtedly be another raucous event.
I maintain a minority view that I would like to see these matches played in a neutral site without the screaming, hooting and Ole’ing to see exactly what these guys would do mano a mano (without all the BS) but that would be against the modern precept of professional golf that money is all important. Fortunately that might be true in the world of professional golf but the game of golf itself will continue to transcend the almighty dollar/euro/sterling/yen.