Ryder Cup predictions: USA has a slight edge in our tale of the tape
The full rosters have been set for both Ryder Cup teams and the debate begins: Can the Americans triumph for the first time on the road since 1993? Or will the European team's mix of veterans and promising rookies make the difference?
We looked at every player's history in six categories: Ryder Cup appearances, past performance in the Ryder Cup, age, years pro, PGA and European Tour wins and official world golf ranking.
Both of these teams are loaded with talent but the United States has a slight edge. Here is what we found:
RYDER CUP APPEARANCES
There are 24 Ryder Cup appearances among the 24 golfers on both teams. Phil Mickelson (above) is responsible for 11 of those. Only four players have more than three appearances (Phil at 11, Tiger Woods at 7, Sergio Garcia at 7, and Ian Poulter at 5). Eight players will be making their debut. For Team Europe, that’s Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren, Tyrrell Hatton, and Thorbjorn Olesen. The U.S. Team rookies are Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, and Tony Finau. Those two lists should give you a hint as to who is more experienced.
Advantage: U.S. — Average of 2.83 appearances to Team Europe’s 2.17.
RYDER CUP PERFORMANCE
Unsurprisingly, no one has played more Ryder Cup matches than Mickelson. Lefty has won 21.5 points in his 45 matches, good for a .48 point percentage. Five of Team Europe’s seven golfers with Ryder Cup experience have a point percentage greater than .500, while only four U.S. golfers do. One of those is Patrick Reed (above), who has won seven points in nine matches (.78), making him the most successful Ryder Cup golfer on either side. But it’s not enough to turn the tide.
Advantage: Europe — Average of .6 point percentage to .48 for U.S. team.
Phil Mickelson will be the oldest player competing at Le Golf National at 48, six years older than Team Europe’s most senior members — Ian Poulter (above, after Europe's 2004 victory) and Henrik Stenson at 42. The youngest is 23-year-old Jon Rahm. But having seven players under 30 (to Team Europe’s five) makes the U.S. team quite a bit younger. The conventional wisdom in golf has been that players generally reach their primes later than in other sports. The success that Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy have had in their 20s counters that argument. The average age of a major champion is around 32 years old. The United States team is closer to that number than the European team, but it's close.
Advantage: U.S. — Average age of 31.9 to 33.8 for Europe.
These two teams combine for 319 years of professional golf, with six golfers having 20 or more years of experience. Having debuted in 1992, Mickelson has been playing professional golf for longer than Rahm (above) has been alive, but the U.S. team’s youth hurts it here.
Advantage: Europe — Average of 14.7 years pro to 11.9 for the U.S. team.
Every golfer on the two rosters has won at least one event on the PGA or European Tour. As a whole, the 24 players combine for 421 wins, of which 269 belong to the Americans. A huge part of that is thanks to Tiger (119 wins, above) and Phil (53 wins), the only two of the 24 with more than 50 wins. That disparity continues when looking at major wins. Tiger and Phil again sit at the top with 14 and five majors respectively.
Advantage: U.S. —22.4 Tour wins and 2.6 majors, to 12.7 Tour wins and 0.7 majors for the average European team member.
OFFICIAL WORLD GOLF RANKINGS
The 24 players competing for the Ryder Cup include all but three of the top 20 golfers in the Official World Golf Rankings. Not included are No. 11 Jason Day and No. 20 Hideki Matsuyama (who are from Australia and Japan and thus don’t qualify for either team), and No. 18 Xander Schauffele, who finished at No. 12 in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings. Having the Nos. 2, 3, and 4 golfers in the world help push the U.S. team ahead here despite Justin Rose (above) claiming the new world's No. 1.
Advantage: U.S. — Average of No. 11.8 to Team Europe’s 18.5.
That's four out of six categories in which the American team has the edge. It's a small advantage, yes, but could be enough to overcome the Europeans' home dominance.
The prediction: The Americans win, 14.5-13.5, for their first road victory since 1993.