Sept. 21-26, 2021 Whistling Straits, Kohler, WI
43rd Ryder Cup - Afternoon Fourball Matches
Photo Credit: Getty Images

The opening day of matches at the 43rd Ryder Cup provided plenty of drama, as the U.S. and European Teams traded birdies while the Americans got out to a 6-2 lead. But the road to that score was hardly linear: there were comebacks and surprises, all of which help make the Ryder Cup special.

This year fans have an extra tool to help quantify those shifts of momentum. Created and developed by the Twenty First Group, fans can tap into the Ultimate Outcome Probability tool as part of match scoring at www.RyderCup.com/scoring. Each match is analyzed by a proprietary algorithm to determine both who has the advantage before the match and where that balance lies from hole to hole.

Here’s a look at how those probabilities changed during three key matches on the opening day:

Morning Foursomes: Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele def. Rory McIlroy/Ian Poulter, 5 and 3

The Americans were favorites in this match, but only slightly at the outset: 48.7%, compared to McIlroy and Poulter (38.4%) with a 12.9% chance of a tie. Those probabilities got torn to shreds when the Americans won each of the first five holes and saw their chances of victory skyrocket:

1 up through 1: 60.9%

2 up through 2: 72.3%

3 up through 3: 83.4%

4 up through 4: 91.7%

5 up through 5: 96.7%

The Europeans eventually cut into that deficit in the middle of the match, but the U.S. probability of victory never dipped below 91 percent after the fourth hole.

Afternoon Four-Balls: Tony Finau/Harris English def. Rory McIlroy/Shane Lowry, 4 and 3

Not that we’re picking on McIlroy, but this was another match where the probabilities changed pretty dramatically. This one began with the Europeans afforded a slight advantage, 44.2% to 43.0%. Those numbers actually shifted in the direction of the Americans (43.0% to 42.4%) after four holes despite the fact that they were each tied. McIlroy and Lowry’s chances got up to 56.8% when they led, 1 up, after five holes, but that simply set the stage for an American onslaught.

Finau and English both found their putter on the back nine, as the Americans won three straight holes from Nos. 8-10. Those victories shot their win probability from 42.2% to 88.9%, and their chances didn’t fall below 88 percent the rest of the way.

Afternoon Four-Balls: Justin Thomas/Patrick Cantlay vs. Viktor Hovland/Tommy Fleetwood, Tied

This was one of the most tense matches of the day, and one where the numbers truly fluctuated. The algorithm gave the Americans a solid edge at the outset, 49.0% to 38.2%, and they maintained an edge through the first three holes. But then the Europeans put some blue on the board, winning three of the next five holes to build a 3-up advantage through eight. At that point, Hovland and Fleetwood held a whopping 83.2% chance of winning the match.

But the Americans were undeterred, and they began chipping into the lead. When the Euros were 2 up with seven holes to go their win chances stood at 75.4%. They remained above 63% until Thomas’ eagle on No. 16 tied the match, putting the Americans briefly in the lead. By the 17th hole the biggest probability was for a tie (35.8%), and that was ultimately the end result of a hard-fought match.

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