The average world ranking of the United States players is 11.17 compared to 19.08 for Europe so on form the US should win the Ryder Cup in France. There have been similar variances in the past but the sum has been better than the individual parts for Europe who then win against the odds. However, this year’s host course at Le Golf National near Paris favours the visitors so the United States can retain the Ryder Cup. As defending champions a 14-14 draw will suffice. In any case another close match is anticipated but Europe look like being second best.
There have been a number of variations to the qualifying process which may have favoured the United States but they have not taken advantage. For the 2018 version which starts on Friday each team consists of eight automatic qualifiers and four wildcard picks. Thomas Bjorn (Europe) and Jim Furyk (United States) have taken a slightly different approach in completing their teams with their choices. World ranking and Ryder Cup qualifying points determined the eight players in the teams by rights and the make-up influenced the captain’s picks.
Every Ryder Cup captain has faced the dilemma of weighing up the value of current form against experience. The pressure of performing in the Ryder Cup is unique and a player must be confident with his game as any flaws will be found out. Golf is a game about confidence but that can be fragile. A player can be going well and then one bad hole disrupts the momentum. In general in form players will have the better mentality than more experienced players struggling with their game. Bjorn has totally gone down the experienced route.
The average world ranking of his four picks is 26.75 and they are all aged between 38 and 42. Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter have played in 20 previous Ryder Cups in total. Bjorn had to go for the more Ryder Cup battle-hardened because the other eight qualifiers include five rookies who have never played in the Ryder Cup before. The three qualifiers with Ryder Cup experience have appeared in 10 of the biennial matches against the United States.
Furyk had to deal with two rookies in the original eight so the average world ranking of his picks comes in at 15.59, more than 11 places more than the picks representing Europe. His wildcard selections have played in 18 Ryder Cups but Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are the only contributors because Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau are debutants. The US qualifiers on points and ranking have played in 16 Ryder Cups in the past.
The figures for both sides present the balance between form and experience. The US team have generally been playing better over the last 12 months while the European team is more experienced. In terms of major championship wins the US are well in front but the overall total is distorted by the 14 majors that Tiger Woods has won. Nine US players have won at least one major while only five Europeans have won at the highest level. Rory McIlroy is Europe’s only multiple major winner while five Americans have won two or more.
Six Europeans have a Ryder Cup win record of 50% or more and four US players have won at least half of their matches. However, all four of Bjorn’s wildcards have achieved that 50% plus win percentage and the four US players with a better than half win record qualified by right. So the record and experience of the picks visa versa the form of the eight qualifiers could be key. This year form can prevail over experience and the United States are tipped to win the 2018 Ryder Cup.