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  • Alistair Tait

Europe’s Ryder Cup Imbalance

Math isn’t my strong point, but I come up with 11–4. That’s soon to reach 13–4 by the 2025 Ryder Cup, and perhaps 14-4 by 2027, if the predictions are true. It seems a wee bit of a gap from participation numbers of 49–36.

What on earth am I talking about?

The Ryder Cup captaincy.

Since 1979, when Continental Europeans became involved in the biennial match, just four European teams have been captained by players from Continental Europe. By contrast, eleven British or Irish men have captained 17 European teams.

If you believe the prognosticators – and there seems no reason to doubt them – then Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter have been pencilled in as Europe's next two Ryder Cup captains. There’s even talk of Graeme McDowell taking on the captaincy for the 2027 match at Adare Manor, Ireland. If that scenario plays out then 14 British or Irish men will have captained the European Ryder Cup team 20 times out of 24 matches.

The European Tour made a big deal before this recent match about the fortunate 164 European players who have appeared in the match since it was inaugurated in 1927. Those number are break down into 36 Continentals versus 128 British or Irish players.

I count 85 individuals who have represented Europe in the biennial match since 1979. Forty nine of them have been from Great Britain or Ireland against those 36 Continentals. According to my basic math, those numbers amount to a 58% versus 42% GB&I to Continental European participation rate.

So why have just four Continentals been handed the captaincy given how much they’ve contributed to the European cause since 1979? After all, it’s a given that the Ryder Cup only became competitive when the match turned into an America versus Europe encounter.

The Ryder Cup captaincy imbalance is thrown into greater question when we consider the Solheim Cup. Of the 10 European captains since the inaugural 1990 match, six Continentals have captained European teams against four British skippers. Those numbers seem apropos considering 40 Continentals have represented Europe against 22 British or Irish players.

Let me be clear before I get accused of stirring things up, I’m not casting aspersions on British or Irish Ryder Cup captains. I’m sure those who selected the individuals did so for the correct reasons. I’m just perplexed as to why British and Irish individuals seem to have a monopoly on the captain’s role while Continental Europeans only get the job every once in a while.

Surely I can’t be the only one looking at the list of captains since 1979 wondering why British and Irish players naturally gravitate to the job while Continentals only seem to get a sniff every once in a while? Have there really only been four – Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal and Thomas Bjorn – that were considered good enough for the job?

Perhaps someone can enlighten me.

#JustSaying: “The PGA European Tour, resting on a common market of 260 million people, will gradually find parity with its U.S. counterpart as Continental golf expands, prize money escalates and standards improve. No longer will there be extended runs with one side dominating the Walker and Ryder Cups as in the past. The best sides will win at home and put up good shows away.” John Jacobs, speaking in 1986

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Oct 07, 2021


Firstly, why do players have to have played multiple times to be captain? Faldo played umpteen times and wasn't very good. Ditto for Clarke. McGinley only played three matches and was a great captain. Plenty Spaniards over the years who might have done great jobs weren't even considered – Manuel Pinero, Jose Maria Canizares and Miguel Angel Jimenez spring to mind. Jimenez was Seve's vice captain yet the argument was his English wasn't good enough. Who cares? Was Parnevik ever considered, or Haegmann, or Per Ulrik or Van de Velde. Er, no. Haeggman, Van de Velde and Jimenez were key figures on the tour's influential tournament committee. All very bright, thoughtful men in their own right.

My main point…

Oct 09, 2021
Replying to


I always respond to constructive criticism, even with those who don't agree with me. Thank you for getting in touch. Fell free to do so whenever.

BTW, I might agree with you on Clarke, but from speaking to players on the 08 team, Faldo just wasn't prepared......




tim johnston
tim johnston
Oct 04, 2021

Statistics aside, who specifically do you think has missed out? in my perception, albeit that might be massively flawed, the Captaincy goes to those who have been multiple time past players and I can’t think of aa appropriate European who has missed out. don’t forget since 1979 we had Jacklin x 4 and Gallagher x 3 at a time when the Europeans hadn’t done enough to be considered.

Oct 04, 2021
Replying to

I'm kind of with you Tim. Yes, there have been few, but what "more worthy" continental has been overlooked? None jump out at me.

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