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The significance of the home-field advantage in the Ryder Cup

Some fans may not think of golf as having a home-field advantage in the way that, say, football or basketball does, but there's an undeniable home-course advantage at play in the Ryder Cup. Since the inaugural Ryder Cup in 1927, the host team has won 27 of 41 times, which is roughly a 65 percent winning percentage.

One could make the case that the impact of home-field advantage is even stronger than that win percentage suggests. Here's why: The U.S. won 20 of the 21 Ryder Cups from 1935 to 1983 (the team from Great Britain expanded to include golfers from throughout Europe in 1979), so you could argue the Americans were objectively better than their opposition for about five decades and home-field advantage may not have mattered given the apparent talent disparity at the time.

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Since 1983, when the U.S. won the last of its record 13 consecutive Ryder Cups, the host country has won roughly 70 percent of the time. There are many reasons why that might be.

One could be the built-in advantages home captains enjoy. They get to direct the set-up of the course, which presumably would be done in a way to favor the players on their team. You also can't discount the huge and boisterous home crowds urging their team to victory. It's a much different atmostphere than Tour pros play in during weekly tournaments. Home captains also get to determine the order of play (foursomes or four-ball) in the first two days of Ryder Cup competition. A small detail, but one that could make a difference. Ryder Cup USA, by the way, hasn't won a road Ryder Cup since 1993 at the Belfry (below). That is five consecutive home victories for the European side.

The 1993 Ryder Cup team.

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The impact of home-field advantage is also evident when examining the margin of victory. The margin of victory for host countries is about 33 percent more than the margin of victory for when the visiting country wins the Ryder Cup.

On average, when a host country wins the Ryder Cup, the victory is by 5.1 points, compared to a 3.8-point average margin of victory for visiting countries that have won the Ryder Cup. 

Here's the full Ryder Cup history of every event since 1927:

Year Host Winner Score
2016 U.S. U.S. 17-11
2014 Europe Europe 16.5-11.5
2012 U.S. Europe 14.5-13.5
2010 Europe Europe 14.5-13.5
2008 U.S. U.S. 16.5-11.5
2006 Europe Europe 18.5-9.5
2004 U.S. Europe 18.5-9.5
2002 Europe Europe 15.5-12.5
1999 U.S. U.S. 14.5-13.5
1997 Europe Europe 14.5-13.5
1995 U.S. Europe 14.5-13.5
1993 Europe U.S. 15-13
1991 U.S. U.S. 14.5-13.5
1989 Europe Europe* 14-14
1987 U.S. Europe 15-13
1985 Europe Europe 16.5-11.5
1983 U.S. U.S. 14.5-13.5
1981 Europe U.S. 18.5-9.5
1979 U.S. U.S. 17-11
1977 Great Britain U.S. 12.5-7.5
1975 U.S. U.S. 21-11
1973 Great Britain U.S. 19-13
1971 U.S. U.S. 18.5-13.5
1969 Great Britain U.S. 16-16
1967 U.S. U.S. 23.5-8.5
1965 Great Britain U.S. 19.5-12.5
1963 U.S. U.S. 23-9
1961 Great Britain U.S. 14.5-9.5
1959 U.S. U.S. 8.5-3.5
1957 Great Britain Great Britain 7.5-4.5
1955 U.S. U.S. 8-4
1953 Great Britain U.S. 6.5-5.5
1951 U.S. U.S. 9.5-2.5
1949 Great Britain U.S. 7-5
1947 U.S. U.S. 11-1
1937 Great Britain U.S. 8-4
1935 U.S. U.S. 9-3
1933 Great Britain Great Britain 6.5-5.5
1931 U.S. U.S. 9-3
1929 Great Britain Great Britain 7-5
1927 U.S. U.S. 9.5-2.5

* The defending champion retains the Ryder Cup in the event of a tie.

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