Go Wild with Poulter Wager

  • By: Ben Coley
  • Last Updated: September 26 2012, 16:18 BST

Ian Poulter can repeat his 2010 Ryder Cup heroics

0.5pt Bubba Watson to hit America's first tee-shot at 6/1 (Sky Bet).

0.5pt Webb Simpson to hit America's first tee-shot at 6/1 (Sky Bet).

2pts Europe to win the Friday morning foursomes at 2/1 (Blue Square, 888sport).

2pts Ian Poulter to be the top scoring wildcard at 4/1 (Coral, William Hill).

The battle for the 39th Ryder Cup gets under way on Friday, and the hope is that it lives up to the billing.

Arguably the two strongest sides in the history of the competition will go to war from Friday to Sunday, and whichever way you look at it, they're hard to split.

The home side's main advantage is exactly that: they are going to play in front of their own fans on a course set-up to accentuate their strengths.

But they face a European team who have won six of the last eight renewals, and in truth the only time they've been outclassed in the last 20 years was at Valhalla four years ago.

The more I look at the outright prices, the more I think the value is just with the European side, and that's where my money is going.

The task at hand here though is to find the best specials markets, and the list of potential bets is substantial.

I must admit to being massively tempted by Sky Bet's 5/2 that Lee Westwood hits the first tee shot for Europe on Friday.

It might not seem a big price in what's a 12-man contest, but in my eyes there are effectively only five or six men that will come into consideration and Westwood stands out.

For starters, he was in the first group off at Celtic Manor and I would expect that he continues to fill the role of talisman, one previously placed with Colin Montgomerie.

And if he does begin in that first group, his superior iron play should mean he takes the first tee-shot, as two of the three-par threes are odd-numbered holes and he'll be keen to hit off on those.

Truth be told, I'd have tipped him were it not for Jose Maria Olazabal's foursomes groupings for Wednesday's practice round.

He's put Westwood with Francesco Molinari, and Molinari is just about the only player in this team who could reasonably argue that they should tee off first if paired with Lee.

I expected - and still do albeit but with confidence diminished - Westwood to partner Luke Donald on Friday morning, and if my hunch is correct then 5/2 could look big. Ultimately, though, too much guesswork is involved.

It's a similar tale when it comes to assessing who is likely to strike first for the USA, but there's enough value to get involved this time.

My gut feeling was that Phil Mickelson or Tiger would be involved, as you have to go back to 1995 for the last time that neither man featured in the first group for the States.

But if I was captain, I'd be making a statement by putting good friends Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson and I can really see that being the case.

Not only are they the two current American major champions, but they also led their team out in all four pairs sessions of last year's Presidents Cup, winning three of those ties.

You can have 6/1 about each player this time, which combines as 5/2, and that's surely worth a small play. Their skills combine perfectly in ths competition and I fancy Love to rely on them.

Switching to arguably more predictable markets, and my best bet is Europe to win the opening foursomes on Friday.

Historically, Europe have been regarded as better foursomes players, and while that's not necessarily been borne out in the statistics over the years, recent history does back it up.

In 2010, the US edged the foursomes in what was a reformatted event, and they did so marginally at Valhalla in 2008, too.

But back in 2006, Europe won them 5-3, while they smashed the USA 6-2 at Oakland Hills in 2004 to show that playing away from home isn't an issue.

Europe have also won the first morning's session in four of the last six Ryder Cups, and Olazabal will understand the importance of getting off to a fast start in front of the raucous Chicago crowds.

The most compelling piece of evidence for a European win, though, is the record of their team-members in foursomes.

Luke Donald has won all six of his games, Sergio Garcia is eight from 11, Lee Westwood has won seven from 13, Ian Poulter two from three, Justin Rose two from four with just one defeat, and only two players - Peter Hanson and Francesco Molinari - own losing records.

The American side, on the other hand, seem best when fully in control of their own ball. Only Matt Kuchar (one from one) owns a winning record, and those of Phil Mickelson (two wins from nine) and Tiger Woods (four from 12) underline that this format isn't usually their finest.

Finally, plenty will want to get Ian Poulter on side this week and I believe the best way to do that is to back him to be the top wildcard.

In my opinion, Nicolas Colsaerts will play three games and certainly no more than four, whereas Poulter should play four and may even get five.

Already, that gives Poulter an advantage and once you factor in his Ryder Cup record, which reads eight wins, three losses and zero halves, it's clear that he's the most likely of the European pair and by some margin.

I'm not convinced that Brandt Snedeker's TOUR Championship heroics will mean he plays more than three matches, while Jim Furyk's Ryder Cup record is surprisingly poor, particularly in fourballs where he's picked up just one and a half points from a possible 10.

For that reason, Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson are the biggest dangers to Poulter, but they're roughly 30 and 50 percent short of the Englishman in terms of matches won yet trade at shorter prices.

Don't forget, Poulter was ninth in the PGA Championship at Medinah in 2006 so there's reason to believe that he likes the course, and when it comes to this competition there are few, if any, who do it better.

At 4/1 to outscore just five men, I'd be disappointed were we not at least paid out to half stakes in a dead heat.

  • Preview posted at 1615 BST on 26/09/2012.