Despite winning just one of the last seven Ryder Cups, the United States head into the 2016 Ryder Cup as favorites to get the better of Europe for only the second time since 1999. As so often in recent years, however, the big question remains whether the U.S. can turn its greater individual pedigree into a victory over three days of golf’s ultimate team competition.
Captained by Davis Love III, this year’s U.S. team includes four players in the top 10 of golf’s world rankings and seven in the top 20. World No. 7 Bubba Watson was not even selected and will only be in Minnesota as a vice-captain, along with Tiger Woods. But even without that duo, the U.S. team’s average ranking of 16.33 is some way better than Europe’s 27.75.
Love’s team will also have home advantage, which could be significant given that the last two victories for the U.S. came on home soil, in 2008 and 1999. And the atmosphere may well be even more in the American’s favor and against Europe after comments from the brother of European team member Danny Willett. In an article for National Club Golfer, Peter Willett called American fans a “baying mob of imbeciles” and “pudgy, basement-dwelling irritants.”
The comments brought immediate condemnation by European captain Darren Clarke, who made it clear that Danny Willett was equally disappointed by his brother’s remarks. Yet they could still increase the intensity of an atmosphere that has previously boiled over amid the Ryder Cup rivalry.
Still, Willett is one of the several European players who look equipped to handle the pressure of whatever may be thrown at them over three days, beginning Friday. In the first major of the year, Willett came back from five shots down on the final nine to win the Masters title. An even more impressive final-round display by a European was to follow at the British Open when Henrik Stenson won a scintillating shootout against American Phil Mickelson to claim the claret jug.
And then there is four-time major winner Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman has enjoyed far from his best year, but he showed he was in peak form last week when beating American wildcard Ryan Moore in a four-hole playoff to win the Tour Championship along with the FedEx Cup and a cool $10 million bonus.
But, with the U.S. Open and PGA Championship having been claimed by Americans in Dustin Johnson and Jimmy Walker and Jordan Spieth winning two majors last year, there is perhaps little to choose between the top players on each team. Instead, the Ryder Cup could be decided by how the less-heralded players on each team perform. If that is the case, Europe will have to hope that the six rookies who make up half of its team are up to the unique pressures of a Ryder Cup.
Prediction: USA win
Ryder Cup Betting Odds