STAR PREVIEW: The Ryder Cup

The word Europe is something that has mostly been used in either political or football circles but now all eyes turn to Paris for the Ryder Cup, a spectacular match-up between Europe and the USA over three gripping days.

We also have a brilliant storyline to look forward to. Europe will be followed be fanatical crowds around Paris’ Le Golf National, facing the goliath like nature of a USA side that is, on world rankings, the strongest side ever to take to the field in a Ryder Cup. The average ranking of the US’s 12 players is 11.16, a staggering amount of strength in depth – eleven of their 12 players are in the World’s Top 10.

This combined with an impressive Fed Ex Cup for a number of their players (Tiger Woods most notably) has them as favourites but the Ryder Cup is a very different game and home advantage plays a huge part. Two years ago, the US bludgeoned the Europeans off the driver at the open and wide Hazeltine, but the Albatross course at Le Golf National is a very different challenge.

An inland links course of 7,247 yards, it is tight and extremely closely guarded, with water in play on holes 1, 2, 13, 15, 16 and 18. There are fairways are of many differing lengths but water cuts short six of them at least and the greens are well guarded by an army of bunkers too. Don’ forget the tough pin positions which will be much harder than two years ago.

The Open de France has been held here in all but two years since 1990 and it really is a ‘home venue’ given the huge amount of experience the last two editions of the Open de France have been won by 2018 team members in the shape of Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren.

In fact, 10 of the 12 European golfers have earned a top 10 at least once around Le Golf National and only Sergio Garcia (who was eighth at the Open de France this year) has played it just once. Compare that to the USA, who had only one player make the trip this year (Justin Thomas finished eighth) whilst Brooks Koepka missed the cut when a European Tour player in 2014, and Bubba Watson, who has a desperate Ryder Cup record, missed the cut in 2011.

They are the only three to play the course and Europe are surely ahead on that count at the very least.

The Europeans might not carry the form of their American counterparts, but they hardly come here out of shape – eight of the European team have a top 15 finish on their most recent start and that is more than satisfactory as a preparation for match play tournaments.

It is understandable that the US are slight favourites, but they have failed to justify favouritism on five of the last seven occasions they were favourites before the first tee. Europe have won six of the last eight contests, a record which is tougher to argue with even over such a long period of time, and the 5/4 on them taking the trophy back is better value than the 5/6 for an American Triumph.

The one thing that could be guaranteed is a tight contest. Home advantage will do a great amount for the Europeans, but the sheer strength of the US side could well keep this close.

Four of the last ten have had the same score 14-5-13.5. Backing this correct score could give you a huge run for your money.

Whilst we’re at it, the tie is also a potential runner if the margins are so very tight – and we’ve been there more than enough in recent years.

The 42nd Ryder Cup
Le Golf National, Paris, France
Live On Sky Sports Ryder Cup HD, from 6.30am Friday and Saturday, 9.30am on Sunday

Previous Ryder Cup Results
2016, Hazeltine National Golf Club: United States (17 – 11)
2014, Gleneagles: Europe (16.5 – 11.5)
2012, Medinah Country Club: Course No. 3: Europe (14.5 – 13.5)
2010, Celtic Manor Resort Twenty Ten Course: Europe (14.5 – 13.5)
2008, Valhalla Golf Club: United States (16.5 – 11.5)
2006, The K Club: Europe (18.5 – 9.5)
2004, Oakland Hills Country Club South Course: Europe (18.5 – 9.5)
2002, The Belfry, Brabazon Course: Europe (15.5 – 12.5)
1999, Brookline, Massachusetts: United States (14.5 – 13.5)
1997, Valderrama Golf Club: Europe (14.5 – 13.5)

The key to finding the Top Pointscorer at the Ryder Cup is a simple one; Play as much as possible. No Top European Scorer has ever played fewer than four sessions and many of their winners have played five, a crucial piece of information regarding the overall market as well.

For the US, that stat changes; 3 was enough for at least a tie in five of the last ten Ryder Cups. It is no surprise that, with European domination in terms of the overall result and less strength in depth in terms of the world ranking contributing to several more settled partnerships for Europe compared to the Americans.

In the last 10 Ryder Cups, a European has finished top overall points scorer eight times and shared it with an American twice, so the stats are clear: Back European for overall, and back in the American only markets.

Working out who will play five is a tricky calculation, but good factors should be previous Ryder Cup form, strong performances in majors, and also strong match play form too. Tommy Fleetwood is making his debut in the Ryder Cup, but he was a winner of The French Open here two years ago and played well in the EurAsia Cup when had had a full quota of three matches. He earned three points there and pLayed well with both Paul Casey and Henrik Stenson in four before winning his singles match.

He’s in great form – having finished eight in the BMW Championship, he was 11th in the Tour Championship – so will surely be a prime selection to be one of the first selected, and his flexibility in terms of any potential partnership is also a big asset for Thomas Bjorn’s plans.

We can expect full sessions for Rory McIlroy (10/1 Top Overall Pointscorer with starsports.bet) and Justin Rose (9/2 Top European Pointscorer with starsports.bet). McIlroy has never missed a Ryder Cup session and Rose has played every round in the last three renewals, so it’s understandable that their prices are shorter than most.

Rose, who is now World No.1 after a sensational FedEx Cup, makes more appeal of the two although there is a slight worry that Henrik Stenson, a likely playing partner, won’t be 100% thanks to his elbow injury. Apart from that, there’s nothing not to like about his record and he can take the beating in the overall combined. Francesco Molinari is another danger, as the Italian is now a major Champion and a regular around Le Golf National, although he’s 0-6 in Ryder Cup matches.

Ian Poulter’s not in the best of recent form but he’s fresh coming into this and his Ryder Cup record is exceptional. Of the players who have competed in a minimum of 15 matches, nobody can beat Poulter’s record of 72.2% in the Ryder Cup. He has been allowed to play five matches in three Ryder Cups and on three occasions he was either top or joint top point scorer, and he’s got a wealth of experience around Le Golf National to boot. One is taking a chance the tournament brings him alive, but at double the price of Rose, that is worth taking.

The betting for the US points scoring market is equally well spread, which offers some value given that 3.5 has been enough and there have been several ties on three points.

Jim Furyk has plenty of established partnerships he can choose from, although there are various questions as to who will play four matches given the weapons as his disposal. Le Golf National isn’t set to suit as many of the power drivers as much as Hazeltine did two years ago and this is where a player with real touch can thrive.

Webb Simpson was benched early after a bad start in 2014 (although he halved his singles game with Ian Poulter) but he took two points from four matches as a rookie in 2012 and the American now returns in fine form.

Fourth in the Tour Championship to end the FedEx Cup, he was sixth in the BMW Championship just before that, a perfect way to prepare for his third Ryder Cup.

He finished the season ninth on the Money Rank list with nine Top Tens and 16 top 15’s from 26 starts, with four Top 20’s in the four majors this year. He looks to have the game that’s perhaps most suited to the tight and narrow Le Golf National than any other member of the US team, as he is that rarest of things; A non-bomber, and he should be a valuable asset for Furyk in team action over the first two days, especially in foursomes.

One weakness of the Americans is that they are lacking players with a large amount of course form, but Justin Thomas played the French Open here and finished tied for eighth, and he could play a key role this week. It’s helpful that he’s already got a strong team golf outing under his belt, as Thomas was unbeaten when playing with Rickie Fowler in the Presidents Cup – his one defeat came after the game had been won – and his mix between power and touch should see him come to the four in foursomes before taking the game to the Europeans in the fourballs.

Top Points-Scorers In Previous Ryder Cups
2016 Thomas Pieters (4), Patrick Reed (3.5)
2014 Justin Rose (4), Patrick Reed (3.5)
2012 Ian Poulter (4), 5 x Americans (3)
2010 Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker (3)
2008 Ian Poulter (4), Hunter Mahan (3.5)
2006 Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood (4), Tiger Woods (3)
2004 Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood (4.5), Chris DiMarco (2.5)
2002 Colin Montgomerie (4.5), David Toms (3.5)
1999 Sergio Garcia, Colin Montgomerie, Paul Lawrie, Jesper Parnevik, Hal Sutton (3.5)
1997 Colin Montgomerie (3.5), Scott Hoch (2.5)

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK Europe 5 pts at 5/4 with starsports.bet
BACK Europe 14.5-USA 13.5 1 pt at 11/1 with starsports.bet
BACK Europe 13.5-USA 14.5 1 pt at 17/2 with starsports.bet
BACK TIE 1 pt at 12/1 with starsports.bet
BACK TOMMY FLEETWOOD TOP COMBINED POINTSCORER – 1 point each/way at 16/1 with starsports.bet
BACK TOMMY FLEETWOOD TOP EUROPEAN POINTSCORER – 1 point each/way at 16/1 with starsports.bet
BACK IAN POULTER TOP EUROPEAN POINTSCORER – 1 point each/way at 10/1 with starsports.bet
BACK IAN POULTER TOP EUROPEAN POINTSCORER – 1 point each/way at 18/1 with starsports.bet
BACK WEBB SIMPSON TOP USA POINTSCORER – 1 point each/way at 20/1 with starsports.bet
BACK JUSTIN THOMAS TOP USA POINTSCORER – 2 points each/way at 13/2 with starsports.bet


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