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Still favourites, but for how much longer?

  • Matt Slater - BBC Sport golf writer
  • 11 Sep 06, 11:31 AM

LONDON - As much as I would like to bill this blog as the one that moves markets, I'm not sure I can. What I can say is that my prayers for Europe not to be favourites for the Ryder Cup might have been answered.

Most Ryder Cup-related talk in the last two weeks has been about one of two things: will Ian Woosnam join Hal Sutton in the Mainwaring Museum of calamity captaincy and are Europe really the pre-event favourites?

For what it's worth, I'm plumping for a maybe-maybe double (and no, there is no fence in Christendom too slender for this hack to perch on).

But what I will say with rather less jesuitical ambiguity (you'll have to forgive the religious tone...I went to a wedding at the weekend and it was the full Catholic monty) is that Europe's status as favourites is under siege in the betting markets...and it is a development that neither surprises nor alarms.

Far be it from me to advocate anything as grubby as gambling but a quick look at the spread betting markets will demonstrate the fact that a consensus view is forming - there ain't much between these teams.

Now whether that is because we've got over the shock of seeing so many unfamiliar names on a US Ryder Cup teamsheet, started to get very concerned about the form of Tiger and Furyk, had a crisis of confidence after Woosie's wildcard wobbles or just liked the look of those American odds, I don't know. But then I'm not the only one.

It seems Europe's players can't decide about this whole "who's favourite" thing either. Colin Montgomerie still has Europe as frontrunners (although he doesn't like it and probably has enough loose change in his golf bag to move the odds on his own) but Paul McGinley is less sure.

Speaking to this website's Phil Gordos last week, McGinley said the Americans "will try to play on the fact they are underdogs but that's not the case. It's close to being a dead heat."

Luke Donald is also fairly cautious on the whole issue in an interview with Monday's Independent.

I suppose you could argue that Monty has every right to be confident of Europe's chances in a tournament that has been a major relief to him over the years, and McGinley and Donald have their own equally good reasons to be less bullish. But I think the difference of opinions is just indicative of how close this Ryder Cup is going to be.

That's probably enough on the whole favourites thing for now as it's all just guesswork until 0800 (Straffan time) on Friday 22 September. But before I get back to my crossword there are a few thoughts that struck me this morning (you can almost hear the cogs whirring some days) as I was reading back through last week's blog entries and comments.

- Woosie ain't no Cicero but his pre-wildcard pick behaviour (ie keeping his head down and mouth shut) was no different to the Greatest Ryder Cup Captain of All-Time* Bernhard Langer's. (*copyright of every golf scribe east of Greenland). Let's give the little fella a chance.

- Tiger could well go 100% this time...but even he's going to struggle to play more than five matches. So that's a maximum of three more points to the US total than in 2004. Not bad but I'll take a 15.5-12.5 win every time.

- Just how much of a "home advantage" the K Club is really worries me. If Woosie has any sense (and his recent interview with Golf Digest Ireland, which I can't find online, would suggest he does) he will have a word with the K Club greenkeeper about the state of those areas around the greens. Let's not turn this into a flop-shot competition.

Enough for now. Slainte and all that.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 03:30 PM on 11 Sep 2006,
  • charles Brown wrote:

I don't follow much golf, but I went ahead and read your article. What impressed me was your writing style. I haven't read many sports writers who articulate as well as you do. I couldn't help but wonder if you aren't a novelist as well.

  • 2.
  • At 04:09 PM on 11 Sep 2006,
  • lowell courtney wrote:

Couldn't agree more.
I got 11-2 a year ago on the US winning by a point. I don't think either of us will be far wrong.

  • 3.
  • At 06:40 PM on 11 Sep 2006,
  • Matt Slater wrote:

Charles "Charlie" Brown, I've been called many things ("Golf Twerp" and "tabloid" being my favourites) in the last few months, but never a novelist. I can only assume that I either went to school with you and this is a wind-up, you are in fact my mother (and you've got to stop doing this) or I was right all along and there is the first great golfing novel in me after all (headline-grabbing advance cheques can be sent to the usual address). Whichever it is you've raised a smile, thanks.

And Lowell, I hope you're wrong...but if I'd seen that price I would have been sorely tempted too.

  • 4.
  • At 06:50 PM on 11 Sep 2006,
  • Jim Gordon wrote:

In the end it is all about creating a team whose overall ability is greater than the sum of the parts. This needs leadership gained through respect and experience. Woosie has plenty of both.

  • 5.
  • At 07:42 PM on 11 Sep 2006,
  • David Howell (no, not THAT David Howell) wrote:

Traditionally, Europe have relied on team spirit against superior American individual talent. This year may challenge that tradition...

1. European superior team spirit? The fallout from Thomas Bjorn may or may not have an impact, while Lehman seems to be more highly rated as captain than Woosie in the buildup from what I can tell. Having said that, Tiger is an individualist who would still rather be beating all of these guys rather than just half of them, while Europe have huge inspirational players like Monty and Darren Clarke, who I think will play like a man possessed to be honest.

2. American superior individual talent? The Americans are packed full of unproven rising stars this year, and as a result the European team have - incredibly - a team with a lower mean world ranking. But then, nobody in the world can compare with Tiger at his best, and I'm not sure anyone short of Tiger can compare with Mickelson at his best.

I'm tempted to have a flutter on Europe to win by three points or more, and separately on the US to do likewise. Why? I'm not sure who'll win, but with so many unknown factors - particularly the calibre of the American rookies and the ability of the captains - there's the real chance that all of them will pull one way and produce a blowout, and I'd suspect that with the consensus leaning towards a nailbiter you'd get better value plumping for a blowout.

It would also mean you either get a great Sunday afternoon finish or ample compensation if it doesn't arrive!

  • 6.
  • At 09:19 PM on 11 Sep 2006,
  • Colin Mair wrote:

I think you are right in stating that the match will be closer than some golf scribes seem to think. An American team is never going to be that weak. Europe has a strong team and should rightly start as favourites considering what happened in the US two years ago.

I think they need to put pressure on the US from the off and that might have been one reason behind Woosnam picking Clarke and Westwood, a strong pairing in the past.

As you also rightly point out, the course should be set up to our advantage. Cut the areas around the greens short for a start!!!! Europe to win 15-13.

  • 7.
  • At 10:11 PM on 11 Sep 2006,
  • Matthew Hance wrote:

Is it a bad move for Woosie to agree to go fourballs first on both days? This opens him up to not picking his strongest side first.

Surely proven foursomes players as Monty,Olazabel, Clarke cannot play 5 matches? Does this give the States an advantage to blood a number of first timers straight away?

  • 8.
  • At 08:10 AM on 12 Sep 2006,
  • Graham Wild wrote:

Europe will be favorites for the cup, but unfortunately due to Sky's stupidity and the BBC's reluctance over 3/4 of Europe will not see any Ryder Cup at all, unless they go out and buy the Dvd when it is released.

I find the continuation of Sky to segregate national sport from all of the country appalling. Not only are we ripped off to go to the event in Europe, compared to the US, we are then subjected to a £42 per month fee for 12 months to watch any coverage at all.

So is the country bothered who wins the Ryder Cup? Possibly, but interest will be in short supply due to lack of TV coverage, a thing the ECB will find with this winter's Ashes after selling out to Sky.

When will someone realise that an Austrailian telling the British public when they can watch the best in sport, especially the national teams, is killing a lot of interest in sport in this country and we are getting further and further behind the rest of the world?

  • 9.
  • At 10:20 AM on 12 Sep 2006,
  • Tim Collins wrote:

I really hope Europe stuffs them, but I think we are already losing. Lehman is out captaining Woosnam just as Langer out captained Sutton two years ago. Make no mistake about it having the right captain helps and will earn you a couple of points here and there. The handling of the wild card picks just proves that.

Two years ago Langer had informed everyone prior to the announcement in his hotel room. Woosnam went up to Bjorn in the bar after he had announced his picks to let him know the reasons why. IN A BAR for gods sake!!! How inept is that? Bjorn deserved better than that and Westwood should have been told before hand and stayed in Ireland, instead of him getting on a plane not knowing what was going on.

If Woosnam makes these kind of basic mistakes we will lose cos the Americans although have a bit of a top heavy side can still perform if we are off our game slightly cos of the wrong pairing or daft singles tactics. I hope Woosnam proves me wrong, but I think if we win, it will be despite the captain not because of him unlike two years ago where Langer was superb in everything he did from the preparations to the pairings to the singles order.

  • 10.
  • At 04:08 PM on 12 Sep 2006,
  • Matt Slater wrote:

Graham, I suppose I should put my BBC hat on (think Hal Sutton at Oakland Hills) and say "but we are showing the Ryder Cup!" - two hours of highlights every night (not to mention Five Live, this website, Ceefax, WAP) - but I share your frustration. But them's the breaks and if we spent all your money on golf there would be no money left for (insert your own Beeb bete noire here....and no, the money spent on this blog wouldn't pay for 30 seconds of K Club action). That said, I think we may have some good news to announce re: audio coverage from Straffan via this website - perfect for Friday's work v golf dilemma.

I think the rest of us seem to agree that it's looking very tight, although it seems to be just me and Jim in the "We're for Woosie" gang.

Colin, I'm in complete agreement in regard to the course. It's a US-style, parkland course with lots of trees and water, designed by an American...I think we've been sporting enough already.

Matthew H makes an interesting point...the question of which form of pairs golf we should play first. It seems Woosie is just following on from what worked well in 2004 (we played the fourballs first both days and won five of eight points).

The pattern in 2002 and 1997 was fourballs-foursomes-foursomes-fourballs. And in 1999 and 1995 it was foursomes-fourballs-foursomes-fourballs. Europe won the fourballs in four of those five RCs (losing only in 1995) and took the foursomes in four of five too (losing in 2002). What does this prove?? Dunno.

But I guess it confirms we're pretty good at the pairs stuff so maybe it doesn't really matter which order we play them in. I'm intrigued by your "blooding the rookies" point, though. It sounds like a good idea but I'm just not sure the Americans can afford to get off to anything other than a solid start. I expect Lehman to open with battle-hardened partnerships.

  • 11.
  • At 03:55 PM on 14 Sep 2006,
  • john wrote:

Projecting the tea leaves:
Europe 15 - US 13

Captaincy is about course set-up,
people skills, handling the non-golf stuff.

Once the intial tee-shots are struck that first morning, the captain's role becomes overrated.

It's about the players who:
1. Hit more GIR than
2. Put more approaches shots with
5 - 15 feet than
3. Scramble better than
4. Make more birdies than


  • 12.
  • At 05:46 PM on 19 Sep 2006,
  • Drew wrote:

Graham, I agree with you completely. I am stunned by the attitude of the Ryder cup organisation to allow this to happen. Matt, why has the BBC not made a major story of this? It is laughable that the Irish tourist board are investing so much money in an event that will be covered by highlights.

What an utter disappointment.


  • 13.
  • At 10:59 PM on 19 Sep 2006,
  • Paul Murray wrote:

Let's not forget how absolutely dreadful the SKY TV coverage is guaranteed to be if previous years are anything to go by?.

Having sat through as much 'live' sky coverage as I could stomach 2 years ago, with the same adverts every 7 or 8 minutes, and a complete lack of continuity, I swore this time round I'd just watch the highlights on the Beeb.

My prediction:

Europe 15 USA 13

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