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  • Alistair Tait

Predict Ryder Cups at Your Peril

There seems to be no point playing the 2023 Ryder Cup. Listen to prognosticators who’ve stared into their crystal balls and the United States will simply steamroller Europe in Rome the way they did at Whistling Straits.

That’s not just a point of view emanating from the Stars and Stripes side of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s an opinion shared by many on Ode to Joy shores too.

Everyone needs to take a wee breather and remember: a lot can happen in two years.

As we’ve seen in many Ryder Cups, not everything goes according to plan. If that was the case then Europe would have lost in France three years ago, and at Medinah in 2012, while the United States wouldn’t have won the 1999 match at Brookline.

Predicting Ryder Cups is dicey at best. Forecasting results 24 months out is a mug’s game. I seem to remember a prominent golf journalist saying Thomas Bjorn’s side had absolutely no chance in Versailles. We all know how that turned out.

No one is disputing Steve Stricker’s side was far stronger than Padraig Harrington’s team. For once, the stronger team on paper lived up to the respective world rankings. America out played Europe, was the better team and deserve all the plaudits coming their way.

Many point out that the average age of Stricker’s side was much younger than team Europe. Those same pundits predict the core of this American team will still be in contention for places in Rome, while a few on the European side – Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey – might be past their sell by dates.

That may be true but there’s no guarantee those who starred in America’s victory will still be playing great golf two years from now. A guy called Anthony Kim who was a thorn in Europe’s side when America won the 2008 match. Kim was supposed to be part of the backbone of future U.S. teams. That Ryder Cup was his only appearance in the biennial match. He’s no longer on the PGA Tour.

Patrick Reed spearheaded the 2016 U.S. victory at Hazeltine. Captain America wasn’t even selected for this match. Rickie Fowler? He, too, tasted victory in 2016, after losing experiences in 2010, 2014. (He also lost three years ago.) We were told he was a major winner in waiting. We’re still waiting. His form has dipped so badly he wasn’t even a consideration this year.

Ryan Moore won two points out of three in that 2016 triumph. The former U.S. Amateur champion looked a likely candidate for 2018, but five years ago is his only Ryder Cup stint.

Form is temporary, class is permanent goes the old sporting adage. There’s no guarantee the form many of this year’s American team had at Whistling Straits will be permanent. Anyone who plays golf at any level knows the vagaries of this game practically decree poor golf follows good. Who knows what form the likes of Harris English, Scottie Scheffler, Daniel Berger and others will be in a year from now never mind two years hence.

And just as Rory McIlroy was hopelessly out of form for this match, the same may be said for American stars like Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and company 24 months from now.

The opposite is true for those Europeans who experienced disappointment at Whistling Straits. Just because they played badly this Ryder Cup doesn’t mean they’ll play badly in the next one. In fact, there will be much determination to avenge this loss.

There’s another intangible that needs to be taken into consideration for Rome: home course advantage. With the exception of 2012 and the Miracle at Medinah, a match the U.S. should have won, recent Ryder Cups have basically become home wins, with courses set up to the advantage of the hosts. That isn’t going to change in Rome. Indeed, after the Whipping in Whistling Straits, you can bet the Marco Simone layout overlooking the Eternal City will not be American friendly.

Predict the United States to win the 44th Ryder Cup at your peril.

#JustSaying: “It’s been said I hate Americans, but that, like a lot of the statements about Brown, is, to say the least, a gross exaggeration. What I do admit is a fierce determination to beat Americans on the golf course – aye, even to show them no mercy when I get the chance. After all, British golfers have suffered thrashing after thrashing from our opposite numbers in the States.” Eric Brown

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