RYDER CUP: Professional golf is, at its core, about money and individual accolades. Only once every two years do the best players from across Europe and the United States put all that on the backburner in the service of something higher: camaraderie, patriotism, and the love of competition. That’s what the Ryder Cup is about, and why it stands alone as one of the greatest and most unique events in all of sport.
This year’s edition gets underway on Friday at Marco Simone Golf Club on the outskirts of Rome– home turf for the European team, with 7 of their 12 team members having played Marco Simone in competition before, compared to zero players on the U.S. side. The Americans will be looking to retain the Cup after cruising to a 10-point victory at Whistling Straits two years ago, but it’s been quite a while since they won on foreign soil– 30 years, to be exact– and only four current members of the U.S. team have ever competed in a Ryder Cup on European soil, so this will be a new experience for most of them. Still, the American team is the slight betting favorite, currently trading at 1.91 to lift the trophy on the BETDAQ exchange.
The course, Marco Simone, is a modern parkland-style track designed by Jim Fazio and David Mezzacane in 1991. It’s played host to the Italian Open on the DP World Tour since 2021, with two of the three stagings being won by current members of the European team (Nicolai Hojgaard in 2021; Robert MacIntyre in 2022). A par-71 that tips out at 7,181 yards, Marco Simone isn’t particularly long, though the narrow fairways, penal rough, and water hazards that come into play on nearly half the holes make driving the ball well a priority. The course’s signature feature, however, is the slick, undulating green complexes that will test the players’ nerves and imagination. This isn’t grip-it-and-rip-it, target golf– it’s a thinking man’s track that should test some of the finer aspects of the players’ games. A fun course for match play, in other words…
The format should be familiar to most who follow the game: the first two days, Friday and Saturday, will feature sessions of foursomes (alternate shot) and fourball (best ball), with four matches in the morning and four more in the afternoon. On Sunday, the final day, all 12 members of both teams will play singles matches, bringing the total number of matches played for the week to 28. A point is awarded for each match won and a half-point for matches that are halved, and in the event of a tie the Cup does not change hands, so the U.S. needs 14 points to retain the Cup, while Europe needs 14.5 to take the trophy home.
That’s the big picture, but there are dozens of little subplots and interesting stories to follow this week, and with BETDAQ offering 36 separate markets for the action, there’s plenty of opportunity to get involved. Here’s what I’m expecting:
Jon Rahm top European points scorer at 5.8- Rahm and Rory McIlroy are expected to be the European team’s two anchors and both will likely play every available session, so the opportunity to rack up a bunch of points for the team will certainly be there. Rahm’s dominant tee-to-green game and fiery personality have made him a tough out in match play, and indeed he was Europe’s leading scorer at the Whistling Straits disaster in 2021. He feels more reliable than McIlroy in an event of this nature– we’ve certainly seen Rory put too much pressure on himself and not perform his best in big events, while Rahm seems to have a bit more of a competitive edge. I expect the Spaniard to be his team’s top performer once again.
Brooks Koepka top U.S. points scorer at 13.0- The lone LIV player to make the competition, Koepka has built his reputation on bringing his best stuff for the biggest occasions, and he said himself earlier this week that there’s no bigger occasion than the Ryder Cup. He has a 6-5-1 record in three previous Ryder Cups but has never lost a singles match, and I won’t be betting against him on Sunday regardless of who he’s playing– he’s just too good in head-to-head situations. While it wouldn’t surprise me if Zach Johnson rested Koepka for one of the sessions on Friday or Saturday, he’ll be out there enough to make this a very attractive-looking bet at a price like 13.0.
Europe to win at 2.05- Sure, the U.S. team cruised to victory in 2021, but Europe has replaced some of the dead wood on that team with young, freakishly talented players who have grown up seeing Europe dominate this event. There’s no question that the European teams have largely appeared more comfortable with the format over the past 20+ years, and of course Europe had won 9 of 12 prior to Whistling Straits. Throw in the fact that this is on European soil, at a course that is unfamiliar to the Americans and does not resemble the 7,500-yard, “target golf” layouts that have become ubiquitous on the PGA Tour, and the European team just feels like smart money here.