Thursday, 18 September 2008
The US goes into the Ryder Cup as underdogs for the first time in years and the British papers have been doing their part in getting ahead of themselves calculating the margin of victory. The champagne is on ice, waiting for the Sunday coronation. Even the betting markets reflect the Europeans' overwhelming status. The three players odds on to be top point winners are all Europeans- Garcia, Harrington and Westwood.
The sentiment is understandable as the Europeans took the last two Ryder cups with record margins of 18.5 to 9.5 points each and have won eight of the last eleven cups. There is a lack of desire and camaraderie among the US players. Tiger is out injured. The in form player is European double major winner Harrington. There are too many rookies in the US team. Retrospective explanations as above will be endless if the US loses, but a closer look now shows few of these to have weight.
The US has home advantage and expect the Kentucky course to be set up with light rough and fairways that widen at 300 yards to accommodate their long drivers. Tiger should not be missed, with only a 10-12-2 record so far and intimidating his own team as much as opponents. Look for one of the US rookies, particularly Anthony Kim (23 year old with third best PGA scoring average) to make an impact. The Hot Harrington had a 0-4-1 record in the last Ryder cup in Ireland. Experience is over-rated as rookies have previously had some of the best performances.
The biggest problem for the US will be countering Sergio Garcia who has a formidable record of 14-3-3. If the US can find an answer to him, expect this Ryder cup to be very finely balanced. A lot is dependent on how teams respond to pressure and for the first time in a while, the US does not have the pressure of expectations. Symbolically, the match is being held in Muhammad Ali's home town of Louisville, Kentucky. So don't be too surprised if it turns out to be a "thrilla".