The PGA and European Tours are taking the week off as some of their best travel to Wisconsin for this year’s Ryder Cup, to be played at Whistling Straights on the coast of Lake Michigan. As a Michigander, I’m happy that this week the viewers will see the splendor and magnificence of the Lake Michigan coastline as this beautiful golf course is showcased.
We have seen the course before — it has hosted three PGA Championships in a span of 11 years, with the most recent trip back in 2015. The winners of those three PGA Championships were Vijay Singh, Martin Kaymer and Jason Day.
There are numerous lengths the course could potentially be set to, but if the USA side is smart, they will make it long, and it can play to almost 7,800 yards when tipped out. USA has a serious length advantage, perhaps the clearest of any skill advantage between the two teams, and having dealt with wild rough in France, they need to return the favor and make the course play into their hands.
The European team is not full of slouches though, and something must be said for them winning more often than not, despite lacking the depth of the USA squad. I could write a long piece on that alone, but when Europe has won seven of the last nine Cups, it’s hard to simply point to analytics to break down this competition.
Leaving out much of the narratives such as underdog mentality, team comradery, team selection, lack of caring by U.S., etc., match play golf brings the competition closer together from the start, which is already a benefit for the weaker side.
The largest, long-term difference between the game’s elite and the average golfers in the world rankings is consistency. We see time and time again, anybody on the PGA or European tour is capable of going out and firing a great round. However, most of those golfers are not able to back it up with another, or even beat the field consistently. Mistakes are made, and big mistakes are costly. Over just 18 holes, where a double bogey only loses you one hole and not four strokes, the format brings the players closer together. There is even more in this, but you get the overlying point.
TL;DR: Some of the world’s best are playing head to head over a small sample of holes, with a key skill of the true elites (consistency) being diminished. Matchplay introduces more variance and less of a chance for the better golfers to run away.
Below are some stats I’ll be looking at in particular when teams are announced that I think will play at role at Whistling Straits as well as in the team/match play format. Please notice I did not include birdie/bogey number for Bernd Wiesberger. He’s the only golfer who has primarily played on the Euro Tour, and I didn’t feel right including his birdie/bogey numbers. His OTT/PUT are weighted SG by me based on his Euro SG numbers and his DD is from the Euro Tour as well.
Based on looking at these stats alone, it does not appear Team USA has that large of an advantage with golfers OTT, though distance will carry more weight than accuracy this week. I included OTT though because I do think it will be important to not be a disaster OTT, and right now, the weakest links are on the Euro Team, although Jordan Spieth is the second worst of the bunch.
Putting can always be a dagger as well, and we often remember the Euros just rolling in putt and putt, but on paper, Team USA appears to be strong on the greens. Collin Morikawa is by far the worst on the team however it’s nice to know we have seen him pour them in during big time events, such as both his major victories.
When it comes to birdies and bogeys, it again looks stacked in the American’s favor. This should bode well for fourball play, a format that supremely rewards upside. Very little holes will be won with pars, so the upside provided by aggressive play and making birdies definitely falls with the Americans.
All wagers and DFS plays will invariably depend on matchups, so for an overall preview, it’s difficult to make picks. I don’t have a strong view on the line, but as for making a pick, I will side with the Americans. Do your best to shop for the best number; it will vary widely book to book.
I mainly wanted to draw your attention to a few key points I think any viewer should understand before risking any money on the event.
As always, I highly suggest you join the FTN Discord for further discussions, especially for the Ryder Cup where so much changes day to day and there will be very little turnover between rounds and placing wagers/building showdown lineups.
Bryan DeCorte, better known as Axis, is a PGA & Euro golf analyst for FTN. Axis has been deep diving golf stats for 5+ years and before joining FTN he was a part of Fantasy Golf Bag. He specializes in 72-hole match up betting and Euro Tour DFS.