After a dramatic Solheim Cup last week it is the turn of the men, with the 44th edition of the Ryder Cup getting underway on Friday.
Played over three days the first two days will each see four matches of Fourballs and Foursomes [alternate shot], while Sunday will see twelve singles matches, meaning 28 points are up for grabs in total.
As current holders of the trophy the USA will need to reach 14 points to retain the cup at the Marco Simone G&CC in Rome, a par 71 measuring just under 7200 yards.
Having regained the trophy in emphatic fashion in 2021 at Whistling Straits the USA will be looking to now achieve what they haven’t been able to do for 30 years, which is win the Ryder Cup on European soil.
When the dust settled on the 19-9 rout in Wisconsin two years ago there were few who would have bet against the USA juggernaut doing just that even if they have to contend with a partisan home crowd.
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As the event has got nearer though this looks far less a certainty than it did in 2021, as some of the US’ star men arrive here with question marks you wouldn’t have anticipated at the start of the year.
Justin Thomas’ struggles continued all year while 2023 has been underwhelming for Collin Morikawa and winless for Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele. Throw in the concerns of Scottie Scheffler’s putter and the indifferent form of Jordan Spieth and there are undoubted chinks in the USA’s armour.
From a European angle it should be noted that none of Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton or Shane Lowry have found the winners circle this year either, however the superb form of Viktor Hovland of late makes the big three of the Norwegian, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy look mightily impressive alongside this second tier, while the emergence of Ludvig Aberg is another huge positive.
Similarly to the Solheim Cup, I expect a really tight contest and my hunch is that still smarting from the drubbing they got at Whistling Straits Team Europe can make home advantage count and pull off the win.
They have to be the bet to win the cup for me.
Top European points scorer
However, the Ryder Cup is all about the side markets and I fancy Viktor Hovland to be the top European points scorer.
The Norwegian has had a tremendous end to his year lifting the Fedex Cup trophy with back to back wins, and following a nice three week break a strong fifth place at Wentworth shows he has retained his form.
Hovland had a low-key Ryder Cup debut in 2021 bagging just one point in total out of a possible five, however his partnership with Tommy Fleetwood looked strong in Wisconsin and we may well see them paired together again. A different player now, I expect him to play all five matches and as arguably the best player on current form in the world he could well be Europe’s talisman.
Top Rookie market
The key thing – as it is in any of the ‘top player’ markets – is to consider how many matches a player will tee it up in across the week.
The American Max Homa makes a lot of appeal for me as he’s the highest world ranked rookie across the two teams and having performed superbly at last years Presidents Cup to go 4-0, barring unforeseen circumstances he looks the one here most likely to get four or five starts.
With an all round game suited equally to foursomes and fourballs and a tremendous temperament I expect him to have a big week.
Top Wild Card Market
I will take my chances with fan favourite Tommy Fleetwood against the market leader Brooks Koepka. Having had a somewhat low-key summer, I suspect Koepka will be used more sparingly than the Englishman, who could well play all five matches, potentially alongside Hovland.
Fleetwood memorably had a superb week in Paris in 2018 and with many of the others in this market likely to play three times at best, he looks the man to beat.
Finally to wrap things up I will side with Europe to win the opening Foursomes session on Friday morning. If Europe are to regain the trophy after their mauling in Wisconsin a fast start is key for their confidence. It is notable then that after winning all four Foursomes on Friday afternoon in Paris in 2018, Captain Luke Donald has elected to switch to the alternate shot format for Friday morning in the hope of catching the USA cold and they look good value to do so.
*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.
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