The best event in golf finally tees off once again Friday morning when the Ryder Cup begins in the heartland of America.
The 2020 Ryder Cup was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will be played this weekend at Whistling Straits Golf Course in Sheboygan, Wisc. The international team tournament pitting the United States against Team Europe is one of the most spirited sporting events on the calendar, and the unique nature of the event makes it an intriguing betting experience.
Here’s our Ryder Cup rundown from a betting perspective.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Europe (2018 at Le Golf National, Paris)
THE COURSE: Whistling Straits Golf Club (Sheboygan, Wisc.)
Yardage: 7,390 yards
As the hosts, the Americans — led by captain Steve Stricker — get to set up the course as they see fit. Unsurprisingly, Whistling Straits is set up to play extremely long and extremely wide. The Americans want to bomb it out there, and they don’t want to be hacking it out of the rough. We saw how much they struggled with obscenely tight fairways in Paris a few years ago.
We’ll go ahead and assume the pin locations won’t be overly complicated, either. The Europeans took issue with simple pin locations in 2016 at Hazeltine where the Americans were able to hoist the Cup with a dominant showing. One thing that might complicate that this time around, though, is the Whistling Straits greens are more contoured than perhaps the average PGA Tour stop.
One thing worth monitoring this week is the weather. The course is directly on the shores of Lake Michigan, and the wind has been whipping all week. Coincidentally, that waterside, blustery element almost gives Whistling Straits a bit of European links feel.
Friday: Four foursomes matches (alternate shot in two-person teams), four four-ball matches (best score of two-person team)
Saturday: Four foursomes matches, four four-ball matches
Sunday: 12 singles matches
(All odds via DraftKings Sportsbook)
That’s an extremely good number if you like the Europeans this weekend. As recently as early this week, sportsbooks had the Euros as less than 2-to-1 underdogs. To get better than +200 is very tantalizing.
THE CASE FOR EACH SIDE
USA: The Americans are heavy favorites for two reasons: The first is they’re the home team, and the second is they’re easily more talented. Eleven of the top 16 players in the world are on the American team. They’re also a much longer team off the tee and far better suited to tackle a monster of a course.
Europe: The Europeans just win Ryder Cups. Since Team USA’s dramatic win at Brookline Country Club in 1999, the Euros have won seven of the last nine showdowns. And while the Americans have the deeper team, Europe does have the world No. 1 (Jon Rahm) as well as Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland, who both rank in the top 15 in the world. They’re also the far more experienced side with 38 combined Ryder Cup appearances to America’s 12.
Europe to win Day 2 foursomes (+185): For whatever reason — and there’s no shortage of theories — the Europeans tend to be much better in the alternate-shot foursome matches. Typically, the Euros are more comfortable playing in heavier wind. Well, they should get a chance to do that Saturday when gusts are likely to exceed 30 mph at points during the day. It’s a good chance for them to put on the pressure.
Top Team USA point scorer — Jordan Spieth (+700): Only Justin Thomas has shorter odds to lead the US in points, so it’s not exactly a long shot. But let’s jump on a potential 7-1 payout with Spieth, who probably will get a chance to play in all five possible matches. That alone makes him worth a gamble, as does his 7-2-2 record when playing alongside a partner, which isn’t surprising given his ability to hit every shot on the course. He’s 0-3 in singles, but it’s all worth the gamble in this spot.
Tony Finau total points (-110) over Tommy Fleetwood (-110): Fleetwood was one of the stars in Paris, excelling alongside Francesco Molinari as part of the “Moliwood” duo. There’s no Molinari this week, and Fleetwood comes to Wisconsin in pretty rough form, having not finished better than 35th in a tournament since May. Finau, meanwhile, is one of the longer hitters on tour and should be a featured part of Stricker’s lineup throughout the weekend, giving him ample chances to gain points.
Europe to win the Ryder Cup (+240): Golf, as Patrick Cantlay said this week, is “very chancy,” and it’s even more so over the course of a three-day team tournament. That has favored Europe recently, and it’s due to swing the other way at some point, but will it happen this weekend? Brooks Koepka’s recent comments definitely feel like a reflection of how American golfers approach this tournament, while the Euros thrive. If you’re a fan of Team Europe, you have to love how Padraig Harrington is letting the analytics dictate his roster and lineup decisions, while Stricker has all but said he’ll go off feel.
There are also questions about just how the Americans will coexist; chemistry seems like a potential issue, in large part because of the big physicist, Bryson DeChambeau. Even if he plays nice, is his game suited for team play? It’s a question you can ask of a lot of the Americans. Let’s also put some stock into the Europeans’ experience advantage. There’s nothing that can happen this weekend that will rattle them. If anything, you can almost guarantee Ian Poulter will drain a 30-foot putt that puts Team USA on its heels. The Americans are talented enough to win. They should win. But there’s too much value to ignore with the Europeans in this spot.