The calendar of professional golf events has returned to some normalcy, but the impact of COVID-19 is still having a trickle down effect.
We see it again this week as the “2020” Ryder Cup is played this week at Whistling Straits.
Apart from the fact that the year is not correct in the title of the event, it also means that a few different names and faces have cracked the rosters of the two teams.
To take a break from the weekly stroke play routine, here’s the format we’ll see this week in Kohler, Wisconsin.
The Ryder Cup will feature 12 golfers from the United States competing against 12 golfers from Europe. The event will start on Friday and end on Sunday, 28 matches later.
Friday will feature two sessions with four games in each session. One session will be played in the four ball format which is a 2v2 match with all four golfers playing their own ball. The other session will consist of quartets, also known as the alternative format. It’s also a 2v2 match but each pair will alternate shots with their partner, playing only one ball per team. As a home team, the United States will decide which format they want to start with.
Saturday will look like Friday, but with a bit more of the story revealed.
Then on Sunday there are 12 head-to-head singles matches that ultimately decide the winner of the event.
How does a team get the Ryder Cup Trophy? Each match is worth one point, or half a point in the event of a tie. The first team to reach 14.5 points is the winner. Team Europe won the 2018 edition and will therefore retain the Cup in the event of a 14-14 tie.
Now let’s get down to business and talk about the course.
Whistling Straits is the venue this week.
This design by Pete Dye is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan.
Looking at the scorecard for the week, golfers will see a par 71 stretching for 7,355 yards. It’s shorter than the course played when hosting the 2004, 2010 and 2015 PGA Championships, but it also played as a par 72 in those weeks. For the Ryder Cup, they turned the 11th par 5 by 618 yards into a par 4 by 479 yards.
An important aspect of the Ryder Cup is the ability of the home team to prepare the course however they see fit. It was obvious during the Ryder Cup 2018 in France, where Le Golf National bet on precision and not power.
Although the local team prepares the course ahead, it is important to note that during tournament week (now) each team has representatives who discuss the details of the final course setup, such as the location of the holes. and any other final aspect of the course configuration.
So what could Team USA do with the journey to this week’s big event? With a long haul and a team made up mostly of heavy hitters, it would make sense for Team USA to make the rough as easy as possible to play. This is exactly what the first quotes from Golf Course Maintenance Manager (Chris Zugel) suggest:
“The only difference would potentially be in the rough. We do not protect the par throughout the rounds. The rough they will play with is quite similar to what you will find on your local golf course.
Besides the rough being light (2.5-4 inches), Zugel said the course will play out similarly to the 2015 PGA Championship with firm, fast fairways and fast greens to boot.
From the tee, golfers will see a wide open landscape in front of them with a minefield of bunkers to navigate. While I was just talking about the Americans lowering the penalty for finding the rough, there is no way to lessen the impact of finding fairway bunkers off the tee.
How many bunkers are there in Whistling Straits? They’ve been doing counts over the years and they usually end up somewhere around 1,000 bunkers littered on the property.
As we approach, the bunkers remain a key part of the story. Either come out of a bunker on your approach shot, or do your best to avoid the nasty bunkers on the green. If you look at the former PGAs played at Whistling Straits, it becomes apparent that getting in and out of bunkers is a 50/50 proposition at best, and often even more difficult.
While chatting with the turf, golfers will see fescue fairways and roughs with creeping bentgrass greens. Average greens sizes are slightly larger than the TOUR average at 7,000 square feet and should be quick. The fescue and curved turf profile would closely resemble GB&I courses, giving Team Europe a slight bump in that regard.
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Sifting through a few past quotes, let’s try to break down the course to see how it goes.
Jordan spieth: “You have to shape the ball on both sides of the tee and in the greens, so it requires a lot of different shooting skills.” I also have to be able to throw the ball high and smooth into the green. So that really tests all facets of the game. “
Steve Stricker: “I hope for good weather. We could have a bit of anything at the end of September. We have a great day today, but you can have big winds here or breezes off Lake Michigan, and it’s going to be a challenge for all the guys and there are birdies to be done there, but it there is also a danger lurking around every corner. “
Friday: Partly sunny with a maximum of 70 degrees. Showers possible in the afternoon with winds of 10 to 15 MPH with gusts around 20 MPH.
Saturday: Cloudy with a maximum of 67 degrees. Showers possible. Winds around 10 to 15 MPH.
Sunday: Partly sunny with a maximum of 71 degrees. Winds around 6 to 10 MPH with gusts around 15 MPH.
The Midwest in September is a fun weather puzzle to solve. Most mornings will be cold and hot, but sometimes you’ll have a random 70 degree morning. Overall the forecast looks pretty clean with an occasional downpour here and there.
Trends to watch
The Ryder Cup has been contested 42 times, with the United States winning 26, Europe 14 and two draws. Let’s see what kind of trends emerge by looking at the history of this event.
Americans start quickly
Team USA have won five of the last six opening sessions with the other tied. The overall score for these opening sessions is USA 17 to Europe 7. If you think this trend is continuing but you like Europeans to win the event, it may be wiser to delay your bets and shoot a better number if Americans start. strong again.
Europeans close the gap
I spoke of the overall results of this event which leaned in favor of the Americans (26 victories against 14 for Europe). However, Team Europe has actually won nine of the last 12 editions. Whether it’s better team unity, a better game plan or whatever, the Europeans need to come in with a lot of confidence knowing they have momentum on their side.
Performance by format
If team chemistry is an issue, you would expect to see outperformance in the four-ball format but underperformance in foursomes. This is exactly what we have seen with Team USA in recent years. In the last five Ryder Cups, Europe has the advantage in foursomes 23-17 while the American team leads Europe in the four-ball format (21-19). When it comes to Sunday singles, Europe has also led the department in the last five Ryder Cups, 32 points for Europe against 28 for the US team.
Aye Aye Captain
A fun aspect of the team selection process is the ability for team captains to finalize their rosters with handpicked selections. The last few editions have seen the captain’s picks fight for the United States team. Over the past four Ryder Cups, the US caps are 16-29-2 (0.36 points per game) while the captain’s selections for Europe have dropped to 21-19-3 (0.52 points per game ) during this same sequence.
The nerves of beginners?
When a golfer makes his debut in this event, analysts often take the story off “beginner’s nerves,” but does it really exist? Certainly not in recent years. Team USA rookies have gone 26-15-5 (0.62 points per game) over the past four Ryder Cups while European rookies have gone 22-22-2 (0.50 points per game) in during this same sequence. This is encouraging news for American fans, as they will bring six rookies to the table this week. The last time they brought six rookies to the event was in 2008. Team USA that year won 16.5 to 11.5 at Valhalla.
Hopefully these trends start your search in the right direction. We will be back in the next few days to discuss our choices.
United States Team:
Bryson De Chambeau