The 42nd edition of the Ryder Cup gets underway at Le Golf National on Friday as defending champions the USA look to oust the Europeans in their own backyard for the first time since 1993.
It was 25 years ago, at The Belfry in Warwickshire, the American’s last felt that winning feeling on foreign soil and the holders head into this week’s event near Paris with arguably their best chance of ending their long wait for an away win.
Jim Furyk’s 12-man team is made up of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau and Bryson DeChambeau.
The worst-ranked player in that side is five-time Major winner Mickelson – at number 25 – and with an average world ranking of 11.16, this is the best US outfit on paper seen at the biennial event in the history of the competition.
Nine team members have all tasted Major success – Woods the most successful with 14 titles to his name – whilst there are just three rookies set to feature in France, those being Thomas, DeChambeau and Finau.
Just three of the 12 players have failed to win a title this season and if you want a player high on confidence, then look no further than Woods, who arrives off the back of his first win in five years at last Sunday’s Tour Championship.
There are several candidates for potential picks for top points’ scorer for the US, but ‘Captain America’ Reed offers fantastic value at 8/1 to finish top of the pile for his country.
The reigning Masters champion has won six, lost one and halved two of his nine Ryder Cup matches, whilst he is yet to be beaten in his two singles matches, defeating Henrik Stenson in 2014 and Rory McIlroy in 2016.
Reed’s pairing with Jordan Spieth has proved too hot to handle on numerous occasions, with the duo winning four times, halving twice and losing just once in their 7 matches together.
In terms of a top rookie selection, 2017 US PGA champion Thomas is the 49/20 favourite and the fact he impressed on this course at the Open de France earlier this season strengthens his claims.
The 25-year-old finished in a four-way tie for eighth, three shots off champion Alex Noren, and his knowledge of the course could only prove pivotal to his own game, but also to his team-mates as he will aim to help them around the 7,183-yard track.
Focus now switches over to Thomas Bjorn’s European challengers and their hopes of winning back the trophy after the heavy 17-11 loss at Hazeltine in 2016.
Although Europe’s average world ranking stands at 19.08 – well above the USA’s 11.16 – Europe have won three-out-of-three when their average rank has been below 20.
Bjorn also has several Major champions in his ranks, with Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari, who is the reigning Open champion, all tasting success in the ‘big four’ events.
The Danish skipper does have five rookies in his team – those being Tommy Fleetwood, Noren, Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton and Thorbjorn Olesen – but four of the five have all picked up a trophy this season.
Importantly, Noren won the Open de France at Le Golf National, coming from behind on the final day, and his impressive form at the course makes it good value at 19/4 to be Europe’s top rookie.
But, don’t discount the Spanish duo of Rahm and Garcia – who could be a paired together – as the duo played alongside each other in the final round of the Open de France as they finished in a tie for fifth and a share of eighth respectively.
Englishman Rose arrives in France as the newly-crowned FedEx Cup champion – just the third European to achieve this feat – and he has been a cornerstone for Europe over the past decade.
Much is made of experience in this event, so will Europe’s five rookies work against them. Interestingly, the team with more debutants has won four times in the last 10 but, crucially, on each of those four occasions the team with more rookies was playing at home.
On numerous occasions, Ryder Cup matches have come down to the final hole and, with the 18th at Le Golf National playing the hardest in both 2017 and 2018, it will be interesting to see how the players handle the challenge.
The par-four measures 471 yards in length and it is a real risk-and-reward hole, something that was shown at the Open de France. Stuck in a fairway bunker, and needing a birdie to stand a chance of winning, Garcia attempted to reach the green with his second but ended plopping the ball into the water.
It is gearing up to be one of the battles for the Ryder Cup and the US are edging the outright market at 20/27, a tie is priced at 11/1 whilst Europe are 27/20 to win the cup for the fourth time in eight years.
A note of interest when deciding who to potentially back for the coveted event. Of the last 10 Ryder Cups, the strike-rate for the favourites stands at just 50 percent, giving weight to the challengers’ chances.
Also, the USA has a dreadful record as favourites on the road whilst the market leaders have only won on foreign soil once since the 1997 edition at Valderrama Golf Club in Spain.
For all new customers, ComeOn are currently offering a £10 free bet – make sure you sign up!