Our golf expert Ben Coley comes down on the side of Europe ahead of what promises to be a Ryder Cup for the ages. Get his preview and best bets.
2pts Europe to win the Ryder Cup by 1-3 points at 4/1 (Sky Bet)
2pts Europe to lead after each day and win at 9/2 (Sky Bet)
2pts Rory McIlroy to be top overall scorer at 9/1 (General)
1pt Tommy Fleetwood to be top overall scorer at 16/1 (General)
1pt Max Homa to be top USA scorer at 11/1 (BoyleSports)
1pt Tyrrell Hatton to hit Europe's first tee-shot at 8/1 (William Hill, Betway)
There is only one way you can follow that Solheim Cup and it not feel like the thing after the thing after the Lord Mayor's Show. It is with the Ryder Cup, golf's biggest event, and it begins on Friday.
As summer has made way for autumn, the market has been moving in one direction – and not in favour of the favourites. It was said after their record win in 2021 that the United States would begin a period of dominance as Europe entered one of transition, yet it is the hosts who've shortened from 2/1 to 5/4.
Europe were left bereft in Wisconsin. Now there's belief.
To an extent that's a reflection of history, the United States now 30 years removed from their last win away from home. It might also be something else: the idea that European golfers have hogged the golfing limelight while so many of their opponents have been working on their games away from it.
That's an interesting dynamic, something Rory McIlroy touched upon recently. The idea of McIlroy or indeed any European turning up in Rome after a month away from competitive golf was never on the table. For the United States, it's simply been accepted without question: only Justin Thomas, Max Homa and Brooks Koepka played in September.
Home advantage is more difficult to weigh. The numbers might feel resounding, but the USA's overseas losing run stands at six, which doesn't quite sound so dramatic. Two of these six were decided by the barest of margins and the idea that slower greens or a flight will catch out Americans but not Europe's PGA Tour-based stars seems flimsy to me. Fans matter, but they ought not to be decisive.
The course is what's important, and while there's been talk of brutal rough, Marco Simone is not Le Golf National. The key difference between this venue and that one, scene of a landslide home win five years ago, is that driver or at least driving the ball well becomes vital in Rome. Aggression comes with risks but is still the way to play. In Paris, pragmatism is the path and the US paid a heavy price for failing to see that.
As for the teams, the simplest way to put it is that the United States have greater strength overall, because theirs doesn't weaken through the 10th, 11th and 12th players in quite the way that Europe's might. But with Scottie Scheffler's form having dipped and Koepka's very hard to assess, Europe hold an edge at the top end. Their big three – McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland – are arguably the best three in the game right now.
Two years ago, there were form concerns around the next wave of Europeans like Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton. All three return in better shape, Fleetwood in particular, while Fitzpatrick has become a major champion and PGA Tour winner and Hatton almost won last time. Shane Lowry played better than the end result on what was his Ryder Cup debut and while Europe lose some veterans, that's to their overall benefit.
In conclusion, this looks a close contest on paper and it might just live up to the billing on the course. I come down narrowly on the side of EUROPE because I do feel it should concern US fans that so many of their players have not been playing golf. I find it surprising that none of this side wanted to sharpen up under European conditions at Wentworth and they might just be made to regret it.
Also worth saying is that most members of the European side have played Marco Simone in competition, while a couple of the US players have had off-course distractions lately that again could contribute to this idea that they're ever so slightly undercooked. In a world of fine margins and incremental gains, maybe it'll be decisive.
With this in mind, EUROPE TO LEAD AFTER EVERY DAY AND WIN looks worth a bet.
I can see them simply being sharper and more ready than the US on day one and am convinced that captain Luke Donald will go heavy with his pairings, with his best and most experienced eight players sent out for foursomes – the first time that format has kicked off a Ryder Cup in Europe since 1993.
Those wary of omens may note that this is when the USA last won away from home, but Donald and Edoardo Molinari, a stats-heavy duo who will make decisions that are supported in the data, feel that foursomes suits their side best. Take them to show it on day one and fend off the visitors, who seem sure to make a game of it.
EUROPE TO WIN BY 1-3 POINTS at prices around the 7/2 mark makes similar appeal, effectively combining 14.5-13.5, 15-13 and 15.5-12.5 scorelines in favour of the hosts. The market is probably right to make them narrow underdogs, but like many I've become more optimistic as the months have passed.
Europe to win it back.
Those betting on points scorers this week should bear in mind the strong prospect of dead-heats across all markets. According to both captains, who've respectively spoken about how physical a challenge Marco Simone is, we shouldn't expect many players to feature in every session – that's if anyone does.
Donald reckoned that sitting out a session might make singles victory more likely and wants his team fresh for Sunday, when 12 of the 28 points are on offer. He'll have a Plan B, as will Zach Johnson, but Plan A appears to be to make full use of the team and to ensure that there are no excuses at one of the very toughest courses to walk.
Two years ago, RORY MCILROY won his singles match after missing Saturday afternoon's third session, whereas Rahm was slammed by a fresher Scheffler. Hovland, who played five matches on his debut without winning one, fought hard for a half with Collin Morikawa.
Europe tend to dominate the top overall scorer market, Ian Poulter even taking it in a heavy 2008 defeat and Thomas Pieters doing the same in 2016. Dustin Johnson went 5-0-0 to become the first US player to win it since 1999 in a one-sided Whistling Straits win but I would still lean towards the idea that if anyone is to play every session, it is more likely to be from the thinner European squad.
McIlroy, desperate to get another crack at this following his emotional sign-off in 2021, remains the most likely. Although a veteran in this side in some ways, the 34-year-old won't be beaten for fitness and this is a fantastic course for him, as he showed when leading the field in strokes-gained off-the-tee in his 2022 Italian Open appearance.
The two other aspects of his profile I like are pairings and the likelihood that the singles ultimately decides this market. On the former, he uses the same ball as TOMMY FLEETWOOD which might make them a likely foursomes partnership, while his Wentworth three-ball with Hovland and Ludvig Aberg could also be a clue.
Certainly I'd expect to see McIlroy and Hovland at some stage and based on what we know today and that puts him ahead of Rahm for my money. The latter could well begin the week alongside a back-to-form Hatton and seems likely to play with Nicolai Hojgaard at some stage, again based on ball manufacturer and Wentworth groups.
Hojgaard is a player I love but he'd have to be 11th or 12th among this side and McIlroy might benefit from stronger-looking partners. Throw in the fact that Rahm hasn't played here in an Italian Open and it's McIlroy upon whose shoulders success for Europe may ultimately rest.
He'll know and relish that fact and, at the end of a year like he's had, winning the Ryder Cup would mean everything. Back him to lead Europe to victory at 9/1 and include Fleetwood, who I remain of the view is perfectly built for this competition, and whose form throughout the past six months has been outstanding.
On the US side, the press conference schedule for the week appears to confirm the use of pods, a system employed by Paul Azinger back in 2008 and again popular since the so-called 'Task Force' created following the infamous 2014 defeat and the fallout it created.
There are absolutely no surprises within that schedule: Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, Thomas and Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns and Scheffler were all anticipated, and I'm not surprised to see MAX HOMA going in with Morikawa, having been partners at the Zurich Classic.
Although tempting to side with Schauffele and/or Cantlay based on the strength of their partnership across this and the Presidents Cup, unlike two years ago the market seems to be well aware of that and I wonder if it might just underestimate Homa above all others.
First and foremost, he was exceptional at the Presidents Cup, going 4-0-0 and often lifting partners to victory in tight matches. That should prove an enormously beneficial experience for him and so might the fact he played in the first 'FedEx Fall' event, putting up a solid defence of his Fortinet Championship title to finish seventh.
It's been a good autumn for Homa, who has gone 21-12-10-6-5-13-7 since a disappointing June, and I'd be surprised were he left out of the opening foursomes session. As with all top scorer wagers we're relying on factors like a captain's whim and luck of the draw thereafter, but I can see Homa being a key man for the US.
If there's one market which looks to be totally wrong it concerns who will earn the winning point or half-point. McIlroy is favourite in places despite being a short price to lead out Europe in the singles, which would mean they'd need to be something like 13.5-2.5 ahead for him to have a chance to win it for them.
Similarly, Rahm and Scheffler are towards the front of the betting but we ought to be looking for someone playing towards the end of the singles session. Players like Ryan Moore, Jamie Donaldson and Francesco Molinari have won this in the past and rookie Morikawa did so last time. I highly doubt it'll be one of the absolute stars.
From there, however, it's close to guesswork, so while tempting to chance the biggest-priced players on either side, bookmakers are betting to upwards of 130% and the fact they are too short on the favourites doesn't guarantee anything further down. It's probably best avoided.
We landed a nice bet with Sergio Garcia to hit the first European tee-shot at Whistling Straits and a repeat might be possible through TYRRELL HATTON, one of Rahm's potential partners this week.
Rahm is Sky Bet's 3/1 favourite but I wonder whether his firepower would be best saved for the even-numbered holes, particularly if it came to a tight finish. You'd want him hitting off the driveable 16th in that scenario and again at the par-five 18th, which might be worth sacrificing his tee-shots on five and 11.
Hatton's strength is in his approach work, so the fact that the par-threes are holes four, seven, 13 and 17 would make him most likely to hit first for my money, again making the most of his qualities.
It's possible these two aren't paired together, but Hatton should play foursomes and whoever is his partner, it seems likely they're a better driver and that he's still best suited to teeing off on the odd-numbered holes. Either way I don't mind taking a chance at the odds.
On the US side you can split stakes on Cantlay and Schauffele for a 6/4 shot, in other words betting that they are first out for the visitors. I'd want a little bigger than that and the value call would be Morikawa, for whom some aspects of the Hatton argument would apply.
He's 11/1 with Sky Bet but hand on heart I see him and Homa more as an anchor duo.
Finally, the first and last out in Sunday singles markets are always fun to look at.
Most often, the players sent out last are those who have struggled during the first two days, which is why Matt Fitzpatrick has taken this dubious honour on both appearances so far, and why Bryson DeChambeau did for the United States in Paris.
In a closer match the dynamics could change and perhaps the best example here is 2002, when Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both of whom had played well, were the last two names on the list for the USA. However, Europe stuck to a top-heavy approach and won, so it's a cautionary tale and the best players are underpriced even at 28/1.
My votes would go to Justin Rose on the European side and namesake Thomas for the US. Both bring the experience you could see being relied upon in the anticipated circumstances, without having played well enough to appeal as likely front-runners for their respective sides.
As for who goes first, McIlroy is a very short price having led out Europe in 2016, 2018 and 2021, and I was more tempted by Rahm at 100/30.
Scheffler rates the obvious name for the USA and perhaps we'll see a Whistling Straits rematch to begin Sunday's final session at the end of an engrossing, exhausting week, which I hope sees Europe win back the Ryder Cup.
Posted at 1800 BST on 25/09/23
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