US and European Teams are Evenly Matched for Ryder Cup Despite Golf Betting Odds
Are you looking for a good bet? Oddsmakers currently have the European Team as approximately a 2.5 to 1 favorite over the Americans in the upcoming Ryder Cup. Odds are set with an eye towards finding where the middle is on public perception. And the strong feeling is that since the Euros have dominated this event in the last 20 years, that will continue to be the case on Irish soil. I say that the home field advantage only evens up the match.
Way too little attention is being paid to current form heading into these matches. Since the European side will not be finalized until the end of next week, I’m considering the team standings as they are right now. And I’ll presume that Captain Woosnam’s picks will be Lee Westwood who is currently in good form and Johan Edfors who is a 2-time winner on the Euro PGA Tour this year. That should be close enough. So let’s take a look at the PGA Championship. Seven of the USA team members finished in the top 30, compared to 4 from the Euro side. Hmmm. After the first round of the WGC event this week, again it’s 7 of the Americans in the top 30 and only 4 of the Europeans. Double hmmmm.
I believe that performances in these 2 events are very telling as everyone from both sides is playing the same course under the same conditions. If you are going to risk a wager, you’d do well to watch for the final results at Firestone this weekend.
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The PGA of America could easily become the scapegoat should Team Europe successfully defend its Ryder Cup at The K Club in Kildare, Ireland.
Reeling from an embarrassing 18.5-9.5 shellacking in the 2004 trans-Atlantic shootout under the Stars and Stripes at Oakland Hills, PGA officials changed the way qualifying points are awarded. And they blew it.
Our new system puts a premium on current year performance; an attempt to field the hottest players to represent the Red, White and Blue. (They got that part right at least). But, points are only awarded for top-10 finishes, and points up for grabs in majors are basically twice those at stake in regular Tour events – a double-edged sword as it turned out.
For those non-Ryder Cup enthusiasts out there – if there are any – there are 12 spots on each team. The first ten are assigned based on points accumulated during the two-years between the biannual matches, with the remaining two team members picked by the team captains, who are Tom Lehman and Ian Woosnam.
The scramble to automatically qualify for Team USA ended at the PGA Championship. The new point system resulted in placing four Ryder Cup rookies on the team: Vaughn Taylor, J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson and Brett Wettrerich. Three of those first-timers had fewer than 100 career PGA Tour starts: Taylor (82), Henry (86) and Wetterich (91).
On the morning following Tiger Woods’ PGA triumph, Lehman named Stewart Cink and Scott Verplank as his wildcards. Cink was No. 12 on the final point list and Verplank ranked No. 20. Both have Ryder Cup experience. In picking Cink and Verplank, Lehman put the kybosh on Ryder Cup veterans Davis Love III (15) and Fred Couples (16).
Woosnam has two additional weeks to see who qualifies for the Euros and to make his at-large picks. Picking after Lehman is an advantage, to be sure.
That’s not the only advantage Woosnam has.
Comparing Lehman’s final top-10 to Woosnam’s hopefuls with two weeks remaining, the Euros average Official World Golf Ranking is 21.1, while the average for our guys is 28.1. Sure, we have Tiger (1), Phil (2) and Furyk (4), but we also have Taylor (57), Wetterich (61) and Henry (74). On the other hand, the Euro OWGR range is No. 10 (Luke Donald) down to No. 42 (Paul McGinely). And the only possible Euro rookies are Henrik Stenson (17) and Robert Karlsson (41).
Cink and Verplank do bring added depth to Team USA, but they actually lower our average OWGR to 29.5: Cink (39); Verplank (34).
If all stays the same on the other side of the pond, who does Woosnam have to choose from? Well, it’s a pretty impressive bunch.
Just outside the top-10 is Carl Pettersson. Although this would be his first Ryder Cup, he ranks No. 26 in the world. Next is four-time Ryder Cupper Darren Clarke, OWGR 21. Then there are veterans Lee Westwood (45) and Miguel Angel Jimenz (47). With all the possible permutations, no matter who Woosnam picks Team Europe will bring a much lower OWGR average to The K Club.
The bottom line is the new PGA Ryder Cup point system is seriously flawed, primarily because points are awarded only for top-10 finishes.
When foreign players place in the top-10 in PGA Tour events, they rob points from our guys. This is potentially most damaging in majors where points are doubled and the fields of international players are stronger. Of the 40 possible top-10s in the 2006 majors, only 16 were claimed by players eligible for Team USA and eight of those were spread among Tiger, Phil, Furyk and Chris DiMarco.
The reverse is true for regular Tour events with lower purses and less-than-star-studded fields, allowing Taylor, Henry and Wetterich to garner enough points early in the year to eventually qualify. Meanwhile, OWGR top-50 veterans like Verplank, Cink, Love, Kenny Perry, Couples, Tim Herron, Ben Crane and Bart Bryant were left hoping for at-large bids.
By contrast, they use common sense assigning Ryder Cup points to qualify for Team Europe. The first five spots are given to players with the highest OWGR. The next five are chosen based on how much money they earn on the European Tour.
There is a possible silver lining, however.
Even though the PGA has stacked the deck against us, we do have an intangible on our side. The K Club course – 7,370 yards/par-73 with five par-5s – is an Arnold Palmer design.
I’ve got my fingers crossed for a USA victory, but I am not holding my breath.
RM, there's only speculation on Clarke & the wild card. I'm guessing that Clarke opts out when Woosie asks him if he wants to play. Certainly understandable, and a crying shame.
Ryder Cup is a little like the NBA playoffs for me... If I catch the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, I haven't missed much. BTW, in the past, the TV presentation of Ryder Cup scoring has been abysmal.
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