The Ryder Cup – photo PGA of America

As has been so often the case, even over the 42 years since the Ryder Cup developed in 1979 into a contest between Europe and the USA rather than just Great Britain and the USA, the Americans will start the on-paper favourites at this week’s edition of one of sports’ most intriguing battlegrounds.

One look at the respective line-ups of the two sides highlights why the Americans command such respect by those making books for betting on the event but as the last 42 years have shown, what is on paper is often irrelevant in the heat of this most tense of encounters.

This week the Americans can boast 11 of their 12 players inside the top sixteen in the current world ranking while the Europeans claim just three in that category.

The lowest ranked American is rookie Scottie Scheffler at 21 in the world while for the Europeans, eight of their 12-man line-up are ranked lower than Scheffler and their lowest ranked, Bernd Wiesberger currently stands 63.

Disparity of this sort has been the norm over the last 36 years since the Europeans first won the Cup in 1985 and, despite it, in the 17 encounters between the sides including and since 1985, the Europeans have dominated the contest, winning on 11 occasions losing five and forcing a tie once.

The change in fortunes came about when a decision was made for the 1979 cup allowing Great Britain and Ireland to become a European side and when players such as Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal, Sergio Garcia, amongst others, helped balance the respective strengths of the sides, the Ryder Cup developed into one of sport’s greatest contests and spectacles.

The inclusion of World Golf Championships in 1999 also aided the cause of the Europeans as those events allowed greater access to events to international where the best played against the best and players from the European Tour developed a greater belief in their ability to compete as individuals against the Americans.

In 2021 the Americans have a home-town advantage. At Whistling Straits, on the shores of Lake Michigan, this year’s event is likely to command one of the most passionate and partisan fan-bases seen in a Ryder Cup for many years.

It is about now, and because of the global reach of the contest, that every sports fan, golfer or not, becomes an expert, rolling out all sorts of statistics as to why the Americans will dominate this event from the start but in the heat of a Ryder Cup battle, recent history has shown that statistics only matter after the event and not before and there will be plenty of Monday morning quarter backs saying why whatever result eventuates was predictable.

For many years this contest gained its popularity because of its David and Goliath appeal but in the modern day it is a case of just who is David and who is Goliath?

Common sense suggests the Americans should and will start as red hot favourites to reclaim the title they lost in Paris in 2018 but this contest is not so much about common sense but rather the raw ingredients of a contest of the highest order when bodies and reputations are on the line.

There is little doubt that, on any given day, any one of the combinations in the fourballs or foursomes or individuals in the single match-ups are capable of beating their opposite number. That unpredictability is what makes the Ryder Cup what it has now become.

In the many years between 1927 and 1979, there was a predictability about the result that ensured the biennial contest was little more than an exhibition which allowed golf in Great Britain the opportunity to see the great Americans on their soil every four years.

It is far from an exhibition now .

USA Team

European Team

The fans in Paris in 2018 – photo PGA of America