Rory McIlroy recently said something recently that is not only accurate but has become a common way of thinking about the Ryder Cup. It almost certainly be repeated throughout the week. What's the line? Winning on the road in the Ryder Cup is outrageously tough.
Since 1983, the home team is 14-5 in this competition.
"I've felt this for a while now, but I think one of the biggest accomplishments in the game of golf right now is a team winning an away Ryder Cup," McIlroy said on the Subpar Podcast. "It hasn't happened since 2012, and I think you're going to see this pattern of teams are going to do everything they can to set themselves up for success."
Jordan Spieth said more or less the same thing two years ago.
"I feel I can speak to this losing twice over there and being part of the average age group," said Spieth 24 months ago after the United States pummeled Europe 19-9 at Whistling Straits.
"I think that this is unfinished business. We needed to win this one, and I think it was a massive stepping stone for this team and the group that we have here -- that have really known each other since almost back to grade school -- to continue to try to work hard to be on these teams to go over there. It's one thing to win it over here, and it is a lot easier to do so, and it is harder to win over there. If we play like we did this week, the score will look the same over there in a couple years, and that's what we're here for."
Now the time has come to see whether the United States side can back up that statement or Europe will win its seventh consecutive home Ryder Cup.
Once again, the U.S. has an advantage. Once again, the. Once again, it's easy to see how that could go quite poorly for the Americans in Rome.
While the United States is a narrow favorite among sportsbooks, Data Golf, which has been projecting an outcome for all of 2023, shows that the odds of an American victory have been dropping steadily since the beginning of the year. Still, though, the U.S. maintains a healthy gap over the Euros when it comes to probability of raising the trophy.
Members of the U.S. team have not been playing as well as they were at the beginning of the year, but the Americans are still stronger on paper, up and down their lineup. They have three of the four major champions, nine players in the top 20 in the Data Golf rankings and eight players who rank among the top 20 in the world in strokes gained over the last three months (Europe has just three).
Here's a brief tale look at what the European side is up against.
2023 Ryder Cup: Tale of the tape
OWGR Top 20
Data Golf top 20
RC record of active players
|Players with RC wins||5||8|
Total majors won
Top 20 in SG (last 90 days)
The U.S. has more Ryder Cup winning experience, more major champions, better players overall, hotter players overall and a deeper team from top to bottom. This is the part where it must be pointed out that the Americans have been losing Ryder Cups in Europe in real life for as long as analysts have been saying things like "on paper ...".
Please stop me if you have heard this before because it is more or less the same script as the last handful of Ryder Cups in Europe. Because Europe is much more adept than it was in 2021 and because it always seems to rise to the occasion at home, it seems clear that the Ryder Cup will come down to two things.
1. The Americans must find their pairings: In the last two European Ryder Cups, the U.S. has gone ... wait for it ... 2-12-2 in foursomes. Two. Twelve. And two. In the past, there was a belief on the U.S. side that you could just slap talent together and make it work. This was basically the ethos of Tom Watson's entire captaincy in 2014 when the Americans lost at Gleneagles.
That has changed, though. The United States has dug as deep as Europe into the analytical side of the pairings and formats. This is helpful, and it should assist the U.S. in getting out of the foursomes mire it's been stuck in over the last several years in Europe. In other words, this along with some less-awkward potential pairings (like we saw in Paris) should help combat whatever Europe does with the golf course this time around.
It is truly stunning to hear @webbsimpson1 talk about the impact of data and analytics and the impact it can have as it relates to the @rydercup @Garywilliams1Up | @johnson_wagner | @BrendonDeJonge | @golfpridegrips— 5 Clubs (@5ClubsGolf) September 21, 2023
Watch full Ryder Cup Preview Show: https://t.co/iO199Tlocs… pic.twitter.com/LfyAMtjLoL
2. The Americans must find each other: You know how a college basketball team that's never been to Allen Fieldhouse or Cameron Indoor gets down 18-4 at the first TV timeout and starts looking like they would rather be literally anywhere other than that arena? That's what the last two Ryder Cups in Europe have felt like for this American team.
They have been listless, out of sorts and disorganized at times. They have generally held a disposition that makes Eeyore look ebullient. This goes back further than the last two Ryder Cups in Europe.
This U.S. team is different, though ... at least, it seems different.. And with the basic infrastructure of that team still intact, they now have to go prove that they're different -- that they care about each other and love playing, not for the trophy but for each other.
Shane Bacon tweeted a video of Paul Azinger and Tiger Woods playing together at a Ryder Cup. His intent was to provide a humorous look at how Azinger eyed Tiger after Tiger made a big putt. I was struck more, though, by how little interaction there was between these two players. It was an interaction that feels so out of place for a U.S. Ryder Cup team in 2023.
Europe's secret sauce has always been the two things these Americans are chasing: (1) They believe pairings matter as much as (sometimes more than) talent, and (2) They really care about playing for one another. These are fairly simple concepts (especially the second one) but also not easy to pull off.
It's easy to talk about much you love playing with your teammates when you're rolling over everything in site in Wisconsin. And it's easy to talk about when the Ryder Cup is 14 months or four months away and there are no chips on the table.
But it's an entirely different concept to step back through the tunnel and get punched in the mouth by Rory, Rahm and Hovland off the top. It's another thing to be down 4-0 after the first session and begin staring at a 34-year drought.
This united front the United States has seemingly established will be tested over and again in Rome. (This is part of the reason Justin Thomas is on the team, by the way.) Whether the U.S. can finally fulfill its talent by playing as a team is the exactly what this entire Ryder Cup will hinge upon.