Ryder Cup 2014 Gleneagles
For this first time since 1973 and only the second time in history, Scotland plays host to The Ryder Cup at the fantastic Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire.
The first Ryder Cup was staged in 1927, when the United States beat Great Britain 9½-2½ at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts, but the wheels were set in motion for the biannual transatlantic tussle six years earlier at Gleneagles when ten American professionals took on ten from Great Britain around the King’s Course. The GB team won the event 9-3.
Five years later, Samuel Ryder, a wealthy businessman who had made his fortune selling seeds at a penny a packet from his garden shed, sponsored another informal event, this time at Wentworth, which saw a GB side beat a Walter Hagen-led US team 13-1. It was obviously deemed a success and twelve months later it became an official event.
After losing the inaugural event, Great Britain won the next two renewals on home soil, in 1929 and 1933, but only managed one more victory, again on home soil in 1957, before Irish players joined them in 1973. Three Ryder Cups were staged with a GB & Ireland team but still the Americans dominated. The event was uncompetitive and fast losing its appeal so in 1979, Team GB & Ireland became Team Europe and although the US won comfortably in 1979 and 1981, in 1983 the Europeans ran the Americans close at the PGA National in Florida, losing narrowly 14½-13½ and that was a major turning point.
The Europeans comfortably won at the Belfry in 1985, before winning for the first time on US soil two years later at Muirfield Village. They retained the trophy with a drawn match in 1989 and it wasn’t an uncompetitive event any more. It’s grown in stature ever since and given how exciting the last two renewals have been, I can see why.
The Monday finish at Celtic Manor four years ago, which saw the Europeans grimly hang on for victory, was thrilling enough but the Miracle at Medinah, when Europe won from a seemingly impossible position eclipsed that two years ago and if this year’s renewal is half as good as either of the last two renewals we’re in for a treat.
Two teams of 12 play out 28 match play ties over three days, with 14½ points the total required to take the trophy.
The first session on Friday morning sees European Team captain, Paul McGinley, pick four teams of two from his 12 man squad to take on US Team captain, Tom Watson‘s, four pairs in fourball match play. In fourballs, each of the four players plays their own ball and a point is scored by whoever plays the hole in the fewest number of shots.
Friday afternoon sees four teams of two from each side play each other in the first foursomes session. Foursomes format is often called “alternate shot” and is a tougher format than fourball. The first player tees off, the second player hits the second shot, the player that hit the first shot then hits the third shot, and so on and so forth until the ball is holed. Players hit alternate tee shots so that the same player doesn’t hit every tee shot.
Saturday is a repeat of Friday – fourballs in the morning and foursomes in the afternoon and then on Sunday, there’s no hiding place with 12 singles matches determining the result.
PGA Centenary Course, Gleneagles, Perthshire, Scotland
Par 72, 7243 yards
Designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 1993, the Centenary Course has hosted the Johnnie Walker Championship on the European Tour since 2001. It’s an undulating, picturesque American style course that has been stretched to as far as 7,316 yards in the past.
Looking back at the Johnnie Walker’s here, nothing really stands out statistically, although length off the tee is advantageous and the winners have often played the par fives well. Despite the relatively dry summer, the course is still playing fairly soft so the big hitters could be at an advantage this week, as could the best wind players. It’s very early to take much attention of the forecast but Friday certainly looks a bit blustery.
In short, history suggests a narrow win for Europe. They’ve won five of the last six editions of the event and the Americans haven’t won in Europe since 1993, but to expand a little bit further, expect a tight finish.
The 1989 Ryder Cup ended in a draw and six of the 11 renewals since have ended with a score line of 14½-13½. Europe thrashed the Americans in 2004 and 2006 and the US were comfortable winners at Valhalla in 2008, but with the intensity of the tournament cranking up a few notches with every renewal, both teams put extreme effort into the tournament and I see no reason to expect a one-sided affair this time around.
Backing the least fancied team has been the way to go – the outsiders have won seven of the last 11 Ryder Cups.
It’s highly unlikely that we will witness the sort of swings in the market that occurred two years ago, when we saw the Europeans hit a high of 27.0, the Americans a low of 1.03, and the tie matched at a high of 80.0 and a low of 1.13, but we will see swings I’m sure.
The tie is currently trading at14.0 and unless we get the unlikely scenario of one side running away with it from the get-go there’s a very good chance that the tie will be matched at a considerably lower price. Backing the tie before the off and placing a series of lay-backs in the market could prove a profitable exercise.
Why The US Are The Value
The fact that they haven’t won on European soil since 1993 is a significant negative but there are plenty of positives to suggest the US are the value play. For starters, the captain back in ’93 was none other than Tom Watson, a man who has been given the task of arresting what has been a quite dramatic slide towards the Europeans.
Watson was, and indeed still is, a far more accomplished player than McGinley and with his experience of 21 years ago to draw upon I think he’s a much stronger captain. I also think McGinley’s decision to go with five vice captains, instead of just four, is a sign of weakness. Padraig Harrington, Miguel Ángel Jimenez, Sam Torrance, Des Smyth and 2012 captain José María Olazábal are the quintet and I’m not even sure they’re the right five anyway.
Paul Lawrie, a recent winner of the Johnnie Walker Championship, a proud Scot, and one of the heroes of 2012 would surely have been a better pick than Harrington and will having the last winning European captain present prove a help or a hindrance? I’ve absolutely no doubt who will be the boss in the American camp but I wonder whether the European team might have too many chiefs.
Much has been made of the poor form of the American Team and it’s certainly the case that Watson would prefer his men to be playing much better than they have been doing of late but the same can easily be said of the Europeans. The US team has just two debutants compared to the Europeans’ three and they’re two very strong players too, Jimmy Walker and Patrick Read have both won three times on the PGA Tour in the last 13 months.
Confident Reed may absolutely relish the challenge whereas Victor Dubuisson was runner-up at this year’s WGC World Match Play, where he lost to Jason Day, so we know he likes this format but he has just one title to his name and he hasn’t been playing brilliantly of late.
The other European debutants, Jamie Donaldson and Stephen Gallacher, at 38 and 39 respectively, have a very similar profile. Both men have been plying their trade on the European Tour for many years and yet between them they have just six titles and all of them have come in the last two years. From a gambling perspective, both are players to swerve in-contention and even now they’re not reliable.
As recently as two weeks ago, Donaldson hit the front at the European Masters, traded at odds-on and then imploded completely. I know match play is significantly different to stroke play, but I do have to question whether these two, who let’s be brutally honest about it, were almost heading for journeymen status two years ago, have the mettle required to deliver the goods.
Donaldson and Gallacher could very easily prove us wrong but even if they do, with stalwarts like Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood in particularly poor form, and with former strong pairing, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, seemingly not the best of pals anymore, Europe still might struggle and all things considered, the Americans look the value and anything around 2.9 looks very fair.
Top European Scorer Market
It doesn’t take long to notice how good Poulter’s record is. He seems to find reserves from heaven knows where every two years and absolutely thrives at the Ryder Cup but he really is struggling this year and his poor form is one of the reasons we like the Americans.
In light of the Horizon court case, we can only guess at how good or indeed how bad the relationship between Rors and G-Mac really is and if were bad enough for the pair to be kept apart all week, with McDowell playing so poorly, McIlroy could be a great price to finish the week as the top European point scorer but McGinley has played down any rift and the risk of the pair being put together makes me want to look elsewhere and so we like the look of Martin Kaymer.
The US Open and Players Champion has been playing OK just lately but throwing in a few bad holes. Having holed the winning putt at Medinah, he will have plenty of positive feelings ahead of Gleneagles and at 13.0 he looks the value.
Top US Scorer Market
We were quite tempted by recent Barclays winner, Hunter Mahan, but his form before and after that win has been poor and with the course suiting the big-hitters, I’m going to take a chance on Bubba Watson.
Bubba is a bit of a risky proposition in the foursomes format but in a very open looking market, given he’s a multiple winner again this year, including at Augusta again, and that he was in decent form during the FedEx Cup Playoff Series.
Last Ten Ryder Cup Results
2012 Europe (14 1/2 – 13 1/2)
2010 Europe (14 1/2 – 13 1/2)
2008 United States (16 1/2 – 11 1/2)
2006 Europe (18 1/2 – 9 1/2)
2004 Europe (18 1/2 – 9 1/2)
2002 Europe (15 1/2 – 12 1/2)
1999 United States (14 1/2 – 13 1/2)
1997 Europe (14 1/2 – 13 1/2)
1995 Europe (14 1/2 – 13 1/2)
1993 United States (15 – 13)