Which Ryder Cup team has the advantage?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

The BMW Championship finished with most of the Ryder Cup players from both teams playing well. While the matches are still a couple of weeks away, who do you think has the edge heading to France?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): While the Americans seem to be slightly favoured, the Euros have home soil to their advantage, and because they have five rookies on their team, one might assume that the European galleries might be a little more vocal than normal.  Much as I’d like to think and hope otherwise, though, I’d have to say I think the US will win this one.  The US team is really awesome, and all players are coming off strong years — especially Phil and Tiger.  (Maybe not Spieth’s or Bubba’s best years, but hey… would YOU leave them at home??) The Euros have those five rookies, and three fairly tired veterans in Poulter, Garcia and Stenson.  So, I’d be going with the odds-makers.  Mind you, the beauty of the Ryder Cup is… anything can happen!

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: I don’t think there is an advantage to any one team as they are remarkably equal on paper. IF there is an edge to the Europeans it’s due to home field advantage. IF the Americans have an edge it’s because they only require a tie to retain the cup.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@Davykap): Well…on paper it would seem as though the Americans have a sizeable advantage over the Europeans. The U.S. team has distance (Koepka, DJ, Finau and Bubba), experience (Tiger and Phil), putting (Spieth, Fowler, and Bryson) and a match play savant (Reed). But there’s just something about this European squad that I like. Perhaps, it’s that Molinari, Rose, Hatton and Fleetwood have had spectacular years, McIlroy is coming on at the right time and Poulter is just a Ryder Cup monster. I think the difference makers at this year’s Ryder Cup will likely be the Spaniards. If Rahm and Garcia have big weeks, it could just be enough to tilt the odds in Europe’s favour. If not, we might have a repeat of Hazeltine on our hands. What I’m saying is that I clearly have no idea…

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I think the US has the edge right now with their players playing some of the best golf, including the 4 captain’s picks.  The European team is pretty young, and the veterans that were added aren’t showing their best form.  And the golf course doesn’t give one team an advantage over the other, as it’s a typical parkland course.  The Euros have played it a bit more often with the Euro Tour going there once a year, but that’s not a huge advantage.  The intangible is obviously the team dynamic.  Not sure how all personalities work together, but I do know that the US team has two guys that don’t have many friends on tour, and the Euros always seem to pull together when it counts, so I’m hoping it’s a tight competition!

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Team USA is clearly the favourite. The Americans have the edge in almost every category that matters: World Ranking positions, team depth, majors won this year (3-1), recent victories, Ryder Cup experience and on and on. Europe has the edge in team chemistry. The US has Captain America Patrick Reed. Europe counters with Ian Poulter.  America appears to have no weak players. Europe has long-shot veterans who are playing poorly but could be decisive if they suddenly find their form in France. In other words, if Garcia and Stenson rise to the occasion, they could tip the balance. But it’s a BIG if.

A recent anonymous poll of PGA Tour players found that 44% of them had witnessed cheating on the Tour. Are you surprised by that large a number and if cheating is that well known, what should be done about it? 

Deeks: Yes, I’m surprised, and I would bet that 95% of that cheating would have been inadvertent… mainly because of ignorance or confusion about the rules.  Two things I would do… 1. As I’ve suggested before, I’d take the Rules of Golf, throw away the book, and start from scratch — with the mandate to the committee to come back with no more than 15 simple rules, that every golfer can understand.  And 2. I would encourage every player to act as a good sport and fellow watchdog and inform a partner/opponent if and when an infraction is ABOUT to be committed.  If everyone did that, the integrity of the game would be even more enhanced and reinforced.

Schurman: Do you hear there’s an anonymous poll of blog readers? Over 90% say they miss paper magazines because they cannot stack email/blogs beside the fireplace. I really dislike a subject such as this because it is shrouded in suspicion of accuracy. First, if these players know or suspect something why don’t they anonymously report it to the Tour. Second, if this is common knowledge, the Tour should be seeking out the offenders and removing them before the squeaky-clean image of the Tour is tarnished. Third, exactly what is being claimed by the word “cheating”? Which rules are being broken? Is it intentional, rules ignorance or a lax attitude? Did someone put some tape across the top of their putter to aid alignment which someone else says is to stop reflection? Did someone use a driver that has a shaft of 48″ and then put on a grip that makes it 48 1/4″?

Kaplan: I don’t think it’s as big a deal as GOLF magazine is making it out to be. They interviewed 59 golfers, 44% of whom said they have seen cheating at some point during their careers. That equates to only 25 players total…not exactly representative of the entirety of the circuit. I watch golf every week and the only notable incident of cheating that I can recall off the top of my head is the Joel Dahmen/Sung Kang incident from earlier this year. Nearly every shot by players in contention at tournaments is caught on video. So, if cheating is anywhere near as rampant as this survey is suggesting, it must be happening off camera every time to players who are way down the leaderboard. If that is the case, I say who cares?

Rule: That is very surprising to me actually.  You would hope at that level the guys wouldn’t want any kind of reputation of being a cheater, especially amongst their peers.  And with the number of cameras on them each shot, it’s not hard to get caught.  I suppose it’s tough for players to turn on their peers and report them for cheating, that’s equally as uncomfortable.  It’s a game of honour and you’d hope guys would self-police, if not, then maybe we need to hire Johnny from his parents’ basement who always used to call in infractions when he saw them on TV to be the ultimate referee for all tour events!

Mumford: I’d want more clarity on this question. Are they asking about players inadvertently breaking a rule or out-and-out cheating? If you take all the shots played from all the players over many years, it’s inconceivable that many players, if not most, didn’t witness something untoward at some point. But breaking a rule like unknowingly using a non-conforming club is different than using a shoe wedge or not counting strokes when no-one is looking. Even a questionable drop is open to interpretation. I believe that the overwhelming majority of players on the PGA Tour are honest and play with integrity. The stat is mis-leading. The PGA Tour may want to dig a little deeper, but I don’t think there’s a major scandal brewing here.

You have the opportunity to question any current tour golfer on any subject. Who would you pick and what would you ask him or her?

Deeks: Aside from every male’s question to Tiger, I’d like to ask every player on every tour: “Would you ever be willing to play in a $10m winner-take-all tournament?”  (That is, no prize money — or appearance fee — for anyone except the winner.)

Schurman: Bryson DeChambeau is the one for me. He says he is telling 10% of his method and keeping the rest proprietary. I think most players develop their skills to a certain point and then try to increase their ability to perform by use of science/technology. DeChambeau seems to develop a scientific theory and applies his skills to see if the theory has merit. The way he approaches the game reminds me a lot of Moe Norman.

Kaplan: I would ask Dustin Johnson what he did to prompt Paulina to erase all photos of him from her Instagram account over the weekend.

Rule: Wow, so many options!  It’s tempting to want to interview Tiger about the night of the 9 iron into the window of his Escalade, or the myriad incidents that led to that night!  But the golf geek in me wants to talk golf architecture with a player that has seen Tour courses all over the world and has a great understanding of the way the courses are laid out.  So maybe it would have to be Ben Crenshaw or Geoff Ogilvy.

Mumford: We hear all the time that players are able to shrug off a bad shot or move on from a heart-breaking defeat. I’m not sure I buy it. I’d like to ask Greg Norman if the pain of not winning the Masters gets any less as time passes but he’s not a current player, so I’ll pose this question to Phil Mickelson, who has finished second in the U.S. Open six times, “Are you haunted by the bad shots and questionable decisions that led to not winning a U.S. Open? Do you wake up screaming in the middle of the night, agonizing about the dumb-ass way you played the 72nd hole at Winged Foot in 2006?”

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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