Friday 26th September sees the 2014 Ryder Cup start in earnest with the first two days of foursomes and fourballs. Paul McGinley’s Team Europe will attempt to defend the trophy that they retained in spectacular fashion at Medinah two years ago against Tom Watson’s United States team that has been beset with injuries and withdrawals by key players.
In this article, we’ll examine what lies in store over the three days of dramatic golfing action, before turning our attention to the best bets you can find for the tournament and of course, who we think will come out on top come Sunday afternoon.
Paul McGinley has picked five vice captains (Des Smyth, Sam Torrance, Miguel Angel Jiminez, Padraig Harrington and Jose Maria Olazabal) to assist him at Gleneagles and they are an excellent group.
Two are former winning Ryder Cup captains (Olazabal and Torrance), two are surely Ryder Cup captains of the future (Jiminez and Harrington) while Smyth is a hugely popular figure within the European camp.
Team Europe Players: (* denotes captains pick)
- Thomas Bjorn (Denmark)
- Jamie Donaldson (Wales)
- Victor Dubuisson (France)
- Stephen Gallacher (Scotland) *
- Sergio Garcia (Spain)
- Martin Kaymer (Germany)
- Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland)
- Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland)
- Ian Poulter (England) *
- Justin Rose (England)
- Henrik Stenson (Sweden)
- Lee Westwood (England) *
There are three Ryder Cup rookies on McGinley’s team in Donaldson, Dubuisson and Gallacher. The Scot’s better form arguably saw him edge out Ryder Cup veteran Luke Donald for the final spot on the European team.
Lee Westwood’s vast Ryder Cup experience and several good rounds of late probably saw him earn another captains pick while Ian Poulter, statistically the best Ryder Cup player ever, was always likely to be a pick if he didn’t earn an automatic spot.
This is an extremely strong team with four of the top six golfers in the world rankings (McIlroy 1st, Garcia 3rd, Stenson 4th, Rose 6th) all included. Plus a player who has won an astonishing 80% of all the Ryder Cup points he has contested (Poulter).
Europe are the strong bookmakers favourite ahead of the event and it is not difficult to see why, yet with three rookies in the team, McGinley will be wanting all three to make significant contributions and it is likely that all twelve players will see at least one round of action before Sunday’s final singles.
US captain Tom Watson has picked three vice captains to help his team at Gleneagles; Ray Floyd (a former Ryder Cup player and captain), Andy North and Steve Stricker. It will also benefit the US team that Watson has a fantastic relationship with the people of Scotland after some stirring British Open victories in the 1970s across some of the most famous northern links.
Team USA Players: (* denotes captains pick)
- Keegan Bradley*
- Rickie Fowler
- Jim Furyk
- Zach Johnson
- Matt Kuchar
- Hunter Mahan*
- Phil Mickelson
- Patrick Reed
- Webb Simpson*
- Jordan Spieth
- Jimmy Walker
- Bubba Watson
Tom Watson was a wise choice as American skipper for what looks likely to be one of the United States’ toughest Ryder Cup tests in many years. While the European team is pretty much at full strength, Watson’s team has seen three likely automatic selections, Tiger Woods, Jason Dufner and Dustin Johnson become unavailable for selection through injury or voluntary withdrawal from golf.
Of all the absentees, it is arguably Johnson (who won 3 points out of 3 in 2012) who will be the US teams biggest loss. Woods and Dufner, while talented players, don’t have as strong Ryder Cup records as their tall counterpart. Yet it would be wrong to think of this as the weakest American team in many years. This team boasts four players ranked in the world’s top ten (Furyk, Watson, Kuchar and Fowler) with another four (Mickelson, Spieth, Johnson and Walker) all ranked inside the World’s top 20.
Indeed the US have eight players ranked inside the world’s top 20, to Europe’s six. The lowest ranked player on the American team (Webb Simpson in 33rd ), is ranked 8 players higher than 41st place Lee Westwood from Europe, the lowest ranked player on the European team. Indeed, the American team’s strength is such is that four players inside the World’s top 30, Bill Haas, Steve Stricker, Chris Kirk and new Fedex Cup champion Billy Horschel did not make it onto the team.
The US team has three Ryder Cup rookies in Reed, Spieth and Walker, so they are even to Europe on that score and like team Europe, Watson will no doubt hope his rookies can shine over the first four days to give the US team a chance of winning the event in Sunday’s singles, traditionally their strongest day in the Ryder Cup.
Best bets and odds
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With that in mind, we are going to look at the best bets for some of the markets covered by this excellent promotion: Correct Score, Top European Points Scorer and the Top USA Points Scorer.
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Correct score prediction
The last two Ryder Cup competitions have been close-run affairs, with Europe coming out on top each time by 14.5 points to 13.5 points, but before then there were a series of events where both sides won by comfortable margins. On paper, both these teams look well-matched so another close run things looks likely in Scotland this week.
The shortest price selection is a 15-13 Europe win (at 7/1 with Skybet) but I prefer the 16-12 scoreline for Europe at 10/1. However, if you fancy a narrow US victory, then there’s good value on most US correct score predictions, with a US win by 15-13 currently available at 10/1 with Skybet.
My gut feeling however is that Scottish weather conditions and the form of the European team in general will likely mean them retaining the trophy relatively comfortably and a 16-12 score feels about right here.
Top European Points Scorer prediction
Rory McIlroy is the favourite here at 4/1 to top score for Europe, but the Irishman complained he was feeling ‘weary’ during this week’s final Fedex Cup playoff, so I would steer clear of him for now. My choice here is Ian Poulter.
The Englishman is the best ever Ryder Cup player in statistical terms and somehow finds an extra 30% during these encounters. At 7/1, he’s a great selection for the top scorer for Europe as he was back in 2012. If you fancy an outsider bet, take Victor Dubuisson at 20/1. The Frenchman is a very good matchplayer and I think he’ll be Europe’s secret weapon at Gleneagles.
I can’t see him playing every session, but I think he may score close to full points if selected, especially in the foursomes.
Top USA Points Scorer prediction
Who will top score for the US team? This is a tough market to call, but personally, I think Bubba Watson is the man to back here at 10/1 with Skybet.
The reason for this is simple – Gleneagles is a long course where length from the tee is vital. Watson, in the absence of Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods, is the player in the US team who is most able to take advantage of this. At 10/1, the Masters champion is a fantastic value bet to be the American team’s top scorer.
He may not be a foursomes choice, but I think he is a certainty to play in the fourballs and may even grab an extra session in the foursomes if he shows good form.