As we approach the 42nd Ryder Cup, golf fans will undoubtedly be looking forward to the thrilling tournament that will feature some of the best players in the world.
This upcoming championship starts in Paris on September 28th and will see hosts Europe pitted against America in a three-day tournament.
Here, we’ll take a look at the two teams and see which is likely to prevail in the heartlands of France…
The initial favourites
While every Ryder Cup tournament is hotly anticipated, the build-up to this year’s championship has captured the attention of golf fans and pundits like never before.
Not only will this be the first Ryder Cup to be hosted in continental Europe since 1997 (and only the second overall), but also marks the very first time we’ll see all of the world’s top 10 players competing in the tournament.
The two facts highlight the competitive nature of this year’s Ryder Cup, as Europe will be looking to leverage their home advantage and continue America’s poor performance on the road. Jim Furyk’s team have lost the last five Ryder Cups hosted outside of the U.S., with their last away victory coming 25 years ago in 1993.
However, the strong turnout for this years’ Ryder Cup will arguably benefit the States, with America boasting 11 of the world’s top 20 players and six of the top 10. In contrast, Europe have just six players from the top 20, while their lowest ranked player Thorbjorn Olesen is only rated as the 45th best in the world.
Despite this, and the fact that America’s superior individuals helped the nation to a comprehensive 17-11 win at Hazeltine during the 2016 Ryder Cup, the bookmakers have made Europe narrow favourites. This is largely due to the distinct home advantage boasted by the Europeans this time around, and also that they have won three of the last four Ryder Cups.
Who are the Key Players to Watch?
In the build-up to the tournament, all eyes have been on 14-time major winner Tiger Woods. With good reason, as Woods pulled off a spectacular performance to win the coveted Tour Championship last week, claiming his first professional title in a staggering 1,876 days.
This unlikely triumph was the pinnacle of an outstanding comeback for golf’s greatest ever export, who at one stage sunk to 1,199th in the world following four operations on his back.
The Tour Championship win completed a hugely successful year for Woods, who performed well in the Majors and has climbed to a world ranking of 13th. He’ll enter the Ryder Cup in outstanding form, with the American side undoubtedly seeing him as crucial to them defending the title.
The American side is also bolstered by the appearance of world number three Brooks Koepka, who won both the US Open and the PGA Championship earlier this year. Reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed is also scheduled to take part, while Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth will be hoping to translate their wider tour form on the Ryder Cup stage.
As for Europe, they have Italy’s Francesco Molinari in their line-up, with the world number five having lifted The Open earlier this year. A heavy burden will also be placed on world number two and FedEx Cup title winner Justin Rose, while Rory McIlroy will be keen on showcasing his ability.
The Ulsterman always seems to capture the headlines when the Ryder Cup rolls into town, and this was certainly the case when he did battle with Patrick Reed at Hazeltine last time out. These two waged a magnificent war during a single match in 2016, trading unlikely birdies and superb putts in a match that ultimately transcended the tournament as a whole.
Reed eventually defeated McIlroy 1-up at the end of this see-saw battle, and we expect to see similarly close contests in Paris this time around.
Who will Win the 2018 Ryder Cup?
The fact remains that while America often boast the best individual Ryder Cup players, Europe offers a more cohesive team. This may well be the case here, and in this instance Europe may well enjoy a distinct advantage on the familiar Le Golf National course.
A mainstay of the European Tour schedule, there’s also an argument that the terrain at Le Golf National undermines the immense weaponry within the U.S. team. More specifically, players such as Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Woods and Koepka are all blessed with destructive power, but Le Golf National features shorter fairways and numerous bodies of water that will demand a more subtle approach.
This will play into the hands of more balanced performers like McIlroy and John Rahm, while Molinari’s diverse and metronomic game is also likely to prosper in France.
Ultimately, America’s side retains an advantage in terms of star power and individual quality. However, this may not be enough to counter Europe’s uniquely balanced side, or the benefits bestowed by home advantage.