Bunker Mentality

Nine reasons the US will win the Ryder Cup … and nine reasons they won’t

Bunker Mentality

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For European golf fans, watching the Ryder Cup over the last couple of decades has usually been like watching a big-budget movie thriller. There's thrills, spills and drama, but in the end you can enjoy the whole spectacle pretty safe in the knowledge that the good guys will win in the end.

Sure, there have been the odd deviations from the script - as in 1999 at Brookline or at Valhalla four years ago - but in those cases there has always been a sequel to restore the natural order.

This time, though, things look very different. The Americans are not just favourites, but strong favourites, with some bookies offering as little as 8/13 on a US win while you can get 17/10 on Europe winning a seventh Ryder Cup in nine events.

But why is there such confidence in the hosts, and is it misplaced? Here are the nine reasons why the US team will win the Ryder Cup - and nine counter-arguments why they won't.

1. American home advantage

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US Ryder Cup fans

European dominance of the Ryder Cup began in 1985, but the stats show that they have only won three of the six Cups on US soil since then. The European aura of dominance is essentially based on an unbeaten two decades on home soil.

Why it doesn't matter: The Europeans showed in Detroit in 2004 that a supposed intimidating atmosphere can be totally nullified if you do your best to charm the crowds in the build-up, and then knock in all your putts on the course. The 18.5-9.5 victory they recorded that year is still a record. Then there's the extra pressure of playing at home: in Ireland in 2006 Darren Clarke was a superstar, but Padraig Harrington earned just half a point out of five in front of his home fans. In any case, the only Chicagoan on either team is Europe's Luke Donald, who has lived in the city for over 10 years and is massively popular there.

2. Major champions on the team

Seven of the US team (Woods, Mickelson, Watson, Bradley, Simpson, Zach Johnson and Furyk) have won Major championships in their careers, compared to four of the Europeans (McIlory, McDowell, Kaymer, Lawrie). The Ryder Cup is about holding your nerve under pressure, and more of the guys on the home side have shown they can do it when it counts.

Why it doesn't matter: As Colin Montgomerie and Tiger Woods have both shown for very different reasons, Major form is invariably meaningless when it comes to the Ryder Cup. And remember poor old Harrington again: he came to the 2008 Ryder Cup on the back of consecutive Major victories, but earned just half a point in four matches.

3. Red-hot rookies

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Brandt Snedeker, left, reacts after sinking his putt on the 18th hole to win the Tour Championship golf tournament and the FedEx Cup as his caddie Sco

Brandt Snedeker, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Jason Dufner have never played before in the Ryder Cup. Snedeker has just picked up $10m by winning the FedEx Cup, Bradley won at Bridgestone a few weeks ago and is a US PGA Champion, Simpson is the reigning US Open champion and Dufner has been one of the best and most consistent players in the world this year. All four come into the event without having experienced defeat, and are ready to be USA's great new generation in just the same way as the likes of Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter came through for Europe a few years back.

Why it doesn't matter: For every rookie who shines there is one who gets overawed - as Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler did at Celtic Manor two years ago, for example.

4. The length of the course

With several of the world's longest hitters on his side - including monsters such as Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson - Davis Love III has had the 7,600-plus yard course set up with landing areas that widen out at the 320 yard mark.

Why it doesn't matter: Nicolas Colsaerts bombs it every bit as far as Watson or Johnson, while the likes of McIlroy and Westwood also smash the ball miles (McIlroy was fifth on the US Tour driving distance stats last season). And in any case the sloping fairways and small greens at Medinah mean that placement off the tee is usually more important than sheer length.

5. The Red Zone

US fans with tickets for the singles on Sunday are being urged to go wearing red to create a uniquely colourful home team atmosphere for the finale.

Why it doesn't matter: Scientific studies have shown that the thousands of European fans who will make the trip out for the match will each be 283.6 per cent noisier than their American counterparts. Okay, so this isn't actually true, but it's probably in that sort of ballpark.

6. The Tiger effect

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Tiger Woods (right) with regular Ryder Cup partner Steve Stricker

Tiger Woods's Ryder Cup record used to be something of a bad joke. Even in 2002, when the great man turned up having won six of the 12 Majors played since the previous match, he stumbled his way to two and a half points out of five. But that changed last time out in Wales as he picked up three points out of four, with his regular partnership with Steve Stricker seemingly a perfect mixture of golfing yin and yang. His captain Davis Love III has insisted that he has been bombarded with questions from Woods ever since taking over the team, and he is raring to prove that he can be both a great Ryder Cupper as well as a great individual player.

Why it doesn't matter: Woods is only one man, and though he played well in the 2006 and 2010 Cups it was on losing teams - just as Europe's Ian Poulter was the top scorer on either side at Valhalla in 2008 despite being on the wrong side of a defeat. And though Woods is a great player, he is simply not a pack hunter. His name itself is a perfect description of his golfing personality: like the tiger he is a solitary and devastating predator in an event that calls for a pride of lions working together to take down their common prey.

7. The swinging pendulum

Two years ago in Wales, the home side had statistically their strongest team ever and home advantage, yet the result came down to the very final match out on the course which saw Graeme McDowell beat Hunter Mahan only after the latter fluffed a chip. It feels like that result, more than any US victory, could herald a major shift in the balance of Ryder Cup power. There's a clear parallel with the 1983 Ryder Cup in which a star-studded American team was taken to the wire on home soil by the up-and-coming Europeans, winning by the same 14.5-13.5 margin.

Why it doesn't matter: Shifting balances of power? Maybe, but the likes of Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson have a lot of work to do if they are to go from being one-off winners to a new golden generation for American golf as the likes of Ballesteros, Faldo and Langer were for Europe in the 1980s.

8. World ranking dominance

The average world ranking of the US Ryder Cup players is just over 12, while for Europe it's nearer 19, while the US also have more players in the world's top 10 (five) than Europe (four).

Why it doesn't matter: There is no statistical correlation whatsoever between world ranking dominance and Ryder Cup victory: Sergio Garcia might be world number 19, but we'd bet good money that his record of 16 points in 24 Ryder Cup matches will be the more telling statistic. In addition, Europe's four players in the world top five also happen to be four of the world's top five: Rory McIlroy (number one), Luke Donald (three), Lee Westwood (four) and Justin Rose (five).

9. The Birdie blitz

US captain Davis Love III believes that American players are "in their comfort zone" when the birdies are flowing, and has requested thinned-out rough and soft greens that will make birdies common. The idea is that the home crowd will get into it cheering those birdies, and getting their men on a roll.

Why it doesn't matter: Ryder Cup fans are golf fans first and foremost rather than rabid nationalists. European stars like McIlroy and Westwood are famous for getting on hot birdie streaks, more so than any of their American counterparts, and the site of a scoreboard full of European players leading their matches will always trump a cheer from the crowd.

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