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Who Has the Advantage in the Ryder Cup? Let's Break Down the Numbers

Ryder Cup Captains Trivia: Darren Clarke and Davis Love III Square Off
Captains Davis Love III and Darren Clarke test their Ryder Cup knowledge. 

What do the stats on past Ryder Cups (and current Ryder Cup team members) tell us about what will unfold in 2016 at Hazeltine? Who has a competitive edge and who's the underdog? Get ready for a deep data dive.

Major championships won: U.S. 11, Europe 9. (U.S.: Mickelson 5, Z. Johnson 2, Spieth 2, D. Johnson, Walker. Europe: McIlroy 4, Kaymer 2, Willett, Stenson, Rose). This category is pretty close. Phil Mickelson versus Rory McIlroy is almost a wash; both teams have five players who have won majors. The Americans have two, Zach Johnson and Jordan Spieth, who have won a pair while Martin Kaymer is the only other European with two. Advantage: United States.

Wins this season: Europe 10, U.S. 9. (Europe: McIlroy 2, Stenson 2, Willett 2, Pieters, Fitzpatrick, Wood, Garcia. U.S.: D. Johnson 3, Spieth 2, Moore, Reed, Walker, Snedeker.) This one is pretty close, too, but it is a little shocking that half of the American squad hadn’t won a tournament this season until Moore’s 11th-hour addition. So each team has five players without wins this season. Advantage: Europe.

Career victories: Europe 119, U.S. 113. (Westwood 25, Garcia 20, McIlroy 18, Stenson 14, Rose 13, Kaymer 11, Willett 5, Pieters 3, Wood 3, Sullivan 3, Cabrera-Bello 2, Fitzpatrick 2. U.S.: Mickelson 42, D. Johnson 12, Z. Johnson 12, Snedeker 8, Spieth 8, Kuchar 7, Walker 6, Reed 5, Moore 5, Holmes 4, Fowler 3, Koepka 1.) If you remove Mickelson, you lose almost 40 percent of the American victories. The other 11 guys managed only 66 between them. The Europeans won a lot more hardware than the Americans. Advantage: Europe.

MORE: Who Will Win?  |  Bold Predictions

Fewest rookies: U.S. 2, Europe 6. Are rookies really a disadvantage? That is debatable. Willett counts as a rookie for Europe, and he’s already won a Masters. Wood won the BMW PGA, a big-deal event in Europe, and Sullivan won three times in 2015. Fitzpatrick has two wins as a pro and snagged the U.S. Amateur title. So they’re hardly inexperienced. But if you assume rookies are a liability, at least until they’ve got one session under their belts, then the numbers don’t lie. Advantage: United States.

Home field advantage: The host team is 11-6-1 in Ryder Cups since ’79. The home field advantage didn’t help in 2012 in Chicago, where the Americans wasted a four-point lead going into singles play. But the Euros held serve, so to speak, when they got a chance two years ago in Scotland. Advantage: United States.

Photo:

Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter celebrate winning the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Winning Ryder Cup records: Europe 6, U.S. 4 (Europe: Westwood 20-15-6, Garcia 18-9-5, Rose 9-3-2, McIlroy 6-4-4, Stenson 5-4-2, Kaymer 4-3-2. U.S.: D.Johnson 4-3, Reed 3-0-1, Holmes 2-0-1, Spieth 2-1-1). It’s no surprise that Europe has more players with winning records, given its dominance in the event. All six Ryder Cup veterans have winning marks for Europe. Dustin Johnson is the only American with a winning record who has played in more than one Cup. Advantage: Europe.  

Ryder Cups played in: Europe 28, U.S. 26. (Europe: Westwood 9, Garcia 7, Kaymer 3, McIlroy 3, Stenson 3, Rose 3. U.S.: Mickelson 10, Z. Johnson 4, Kuchar 3, D. Johnson 2, Fowler 2, Reed, Spieth, Walker, Holmes.) This category ought to be a push. Europe has six rookies, but their other six players are savvy veterans, having played in at least three Cups each. Mickelson ties Nick Faldo this week with his 11th Ryder Cup appearance, the most of all time, but four Americans have played only one Cup. The numbers say Europe has more experience in total number of Cups played but the Americans’ experience is more spread out. Advantage: Europe.

Ryder Cup matches played: Europe 121, U.S. 100. (Europe: Westwood 41, Garcia 32, McIlroy 14, Rose 14, Stenson 11, Kaymer 9. U.S.: Mickelson 41, Z. Johnson 14, Kuchar 11, Fowler 8, D. Johnson 7, Walker 5, Spieth 4, Reed 4, Holmes 3, Snedeker 3.) The six Euros played in an average of 20 Cup matches each while the 11 Americans competed in an average of 9 each. Remove Mickelson’s total and the other 10 played an average of 6.1 matches. Advantage: Europe.

Photo:

Phil Mickelson is bound to be a Ryder Cup captain in the future.

Winning side appearances: Europe 22, U.S. 3. (Europe: Westwood 7, Garcia 5, McIlroy 3, Kaymer 3, Stenson 2, Rose 2. U.S.: Mickelson 2, Holmes 1). Even more than match records, the number of times having played on the winning side shows just how dominant the Euros have been. Only two Americans have experienced a Ryder Cup victory while all six Euro veterans have enjoyed multiple wins. Does that count for anything? It can’t hurt. Only McIlroy, Kaymer and Holmes are non-Ryder rookies who have never been on a losing side. Advantage: Europe.

Average world ranking: U.S. 17.1, Europe 27.3. (U.S.: D. Johnson 2, Spieth 4, Reed 8, Fowler 9, Mickelson 14, Kuchar 16, Walker 17, Holmes 21, Koepka 22, Snedeker 23, Z. Johnson 27. Europe: McIlroy 3, Stenson 5, Willett 10, Rose 11, Garcia 12, Cabrera-Bello 29, Wood 30, Pieters 39, Fitzpatrick 44, Westwood 45, Sullivan 48, Kaymer 52.) The Europeans’ bottom six are much lower-ranked than the Americans. At the top, however, it’s pretty even. The U.S. has four of the top nine ranked players in the world while Europe has five of the top 12. Each has two of the top five. The numbers give the edge to the U.S. but remember, only eight players compete in the team sessions the first two days. Advantage: United States.

Fourballs play since 1979 (expanded to include all of Europe): Europe 79, U.S. 66. While 13 points looks like a lot, it’s an average of less than one point per Cup over 18 Ryder Cups. Europe has really piled it on during its run of dominance. Advantage: Europe.

Foursomes play since 1979: Europe 77, U.S. 67. The same goes for foursomes—or alternate-shot format as Americans prefer to call it. Ten points in 18 matches is half a point difference per Cup. Paper-thin. Advantage: Europe.

Singles play since 1979: U.S. 113.5, Europe 102.5. During America’s heyday, the U.S. could always count on a big rally in singles, where they had superior depth. That quit being true once the matches expanded beyond the Great Britain & Ireland team to include Europe. Now, it’s clear that Europe dominates in every format. In this century, in which Europe has won six of seven Cups, Europe holds a 48-36 edge in singles matches. Advantage: Europe.

Photo:

Rickie Fowler celebrates on the 18th green after halving his singles match against Edoardo Molinari during the 2010 Ryder Cup.

Top 50 in putting statistics: U.S. 11, Europe 6. This could be important since putting is the biggest part of the matches. You may be surprised to know that Dustin Johnson ranked third in putts per green hit in regulation going into the Tour Championship. Seven U.S. members rank among the PGA Tour’s top 26 in putting stats (including No.-1 ranked Spieth) while only one, Willett, is among the top 20 in Europe and five Euros rank outside the top 100. For once, the U.S. should have an edge on the greens. Advantage: United States.

Top 40 greens hit in regulation: Europe 7, U.S. 1. The Americans may have an edge in distance with Johnson and Holmes but the stats say Europe has better iron players. Stenson would rank No. 1 on the PGA Tour in greens hit in regulation if he’d played the minimum number of rounds to qualify, while Cabrera-Bello ranks seventh and Garcia ninth. Fowler, ranked 16th, is the only U.S. member in the top 40 in this category. Advantage: Europe.

Overall Advantage: Europe.

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