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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

So What Does It All Mean?

The other four members of the U.S. Ryder Cup team are now known. In case you missed it, here they are:
  • Steve Stricker
  • Brandt Snedeker
  • Dustin Johnson
  • Jim Furyk
I had them all but Furyk. We now know that Stricker and Furyk were the "locks" on the team, as Davis said the rest of the team had been unanimous about them for some time. We know they were chosen for their experience, and we know that when Davis told Jim to remember that he was only two strokes from making the team on points -- the two strokes that cost him the U.S. Open and the WGC-Bridgestone -- he was saying that getting into position to win had actually meant as much as if he had won. No one else had gotten anywhere near that close.

Likewise, we know that DJ and Sneds played their way onto the team by playing so well under pressure during injury-shortened seasons. In fact, all four men had played more consistently over the last few months than any of the other possibles.

So, how does this team match up against the Euros? It's probably pretty evenly matched. Let me just leave you with this thought to ponder over the next couple of weeks:

To listen to all the commentary, you'd think that the U.S. team has been a poor team for the last couple of decades. The word is that the Euros have won 4 of the last 5 Cups. That last is indeed a fact.. but it doesn't mean the teams have really been that far apart.

You'll hear about how the Euros have blown the U.S. out of the water. That has indeed happened a few times... but the U.S. has a few blowouts of its own.

Let me give you a slightly different view of the situation, one that I think explains the REAL reason why the Ryder Cup has become such a popular event.

Here's a list of all the Ryder Cup results since its inception. I'm going to focus on the most recent ones, but it's worth noting that, after WWII, the matches were pretty lopsided until 1979 when Jack Nicklaus suggested the Euro team be expanded from just Great Britain and Ireland to become the Euro team. The 1990s seemed a bit contentious simply because both sides were getting used to the new balance of power -- the Euros were feeling the intoxicating effects of victory and the U.S. was feeling the disappointment the Euros had felt for so long. The real turning point wasn't 1999, as many would have you think, but 2001. The terrorist attacks on the U.S. reminded everybody that this was just a game. It didn't hurt that more players from each side were playing the other tours and getting to know each other better.

Here's my contention, one that never gets talked about: The home team SHOULD win the Ryder Cup. After all, they have all the advantages -- home turf, home crowd, and the ability to set up the course. The onus is on the visiting team to steal one.

Looked at from this standpoint, the Ryder Cup has been pretty much what you'd expect. And that means the "facts" mentioned earlier tell you a much different story:
  • Since 2002 -- that's all the Cups played this century -- the home team has won all but once. Europe won at Oakland Hills in Michigan in 2004. Call this century 1-up to the Euros.
  • Those contentious 1990s? The home team holds court all but twice. In 1993 the U.S. won at the Belfry (England), and in 1995 Europe won at Oak Hill (NY). Call that decade even.
  • In the 1980s when the change was made? The U.S. won at Walton Heath (England) in 1981, the Euros won at Muirfield Village (OH) in 1987, and the 1989 match at the Belfry was a tie so the Euros kept the Cup at home. Call the 1980s even.
  • And in 1979 -- the first year with continental Europe involved -- the U.S. won at the Greenbrier (WV). Home court successfully held.
So, what's the score? For the last 16 Cups -- over three decades, people! -- the Euro team is only 1-up.

I think it's safe to say that the Americans are the favorite this time around (home court advantage)... and if they DO win, it won't change the score. "Away" wins are what count, and the Euros will still be at least 1-up either way.

But will the U.S. actually hold home court this time around? Well, that's where the fun is, isn't it? ;-)

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