Big drift on Europe means the visitors are the value to defend the Ryder Cup

IN just a few hours the 39th Ryder Cup will get underway at Medinah Country Club in Illinois where Europe will be hoping to claim a fifth trophy in six competitions. It promises to be one of the most competitive tournaments in recent memory with all 24 of the players ranked inside the world’s top 35 – never before has such a quality line-up been assembled.

Recent results certainly point to Jose Maria Olazabal’s troops as the victors, but home advantage can be vitally important and Medinah is recognised as more likely to help the Americans, who have been well backed in the run up to the first tee-off. Much of this can be attributed to Cup newcomers Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson all securing Major triumphs in the past 13 months.

However, it can be argued that playing at home has become less significant over the years with a number of the European team regularly plying their trade across the Atlantic. Luke Donald, for example, lives very close to the course and Europe have won three of the past six Ryder Cups in the States.

With the talent on show it looks set to be another tight affair, especially given that half of the last 10 Ryder Cups have finished with a score of 14.5 – 13.5. A repeat of that 2010 result at Newport, where Europe just held on, can be bought at 16 with Sporting Index. The spread betting firm is awarding 25 points for nominating the correct team to win and a 75 point bonus if the nominated team wins and the score is correct.

Statistically, the USA have the longer hitters and superior putters, but the Europeans shade the driving accuracy stats and hit more greens in regulation.

The Ryder Cup is all about sinking pressure putts and seven of the USA outfit currently occupy the top 40 places and recent Fedex Cup victor, Brandt Snedeker, comes out top of the putting rankings. There will be concern that a number of the Europeans have had issues on the greens and that could be emphasised on the glass-like Medinah putting surfaces.

The atmosphere promises to be as raucous as ever, but that could reward the visitors as Davis Love III’s team holds four rookies compared to Europe’s one. Experience counts for plenty in this match-play format, particularly for those that have winning records. The European team have eight players who boast a positive Ryder Cup record, whereas the USA don’t have one to stake that claim.

Olazabal will be well aware of the USA’s dominance in the singles and his game plan will be to build a lead heading into the latter part of the event. Love has opted to begin proceedings with alternative-shot fourballs after the hammering the US took at Valhalla in 2008. Europe hold the advantage in this discipline, as well as the foursomes which should lead to them taking a dominant position on the opening day.

Europe to be leading 5-3 after day one at a best-priced 15/2 with Coral appeals with the two excellent pairings of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, and Ian Poulter and Justin Rose set to star.

Europe are available at 7/4 with Stan James and that has to be the bet. Backing the visitors now opens up the opportunity to lay off on Betfair when they likely shorten into favouritism before the singles start. The US are typically dominant in this area and will no doubt make a late surge but by then we should have locked in a profit regardless of the outcome.

■ Pointers…
Europe at 7/4 with Stan James
Europe to be leading 5-3 after day one at 15/2 with Coral