Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm are back for another Ryder Cup.(Getty Images)
There’s no DaVinci Code needed to win the Ryder Cup. Timely putting, experienced nerves, and camaraderie is the key to success. The media pundits will have you believe pods and pairings separate the winning side, but in the end the team who chooses to embrace the environment will hold the Cup on next Sunday evening.
The 2023 Ryder Cup matches begin Friday, September 29th in Rome, Italy. Marco Simone Golf & Country Club plays host to the world’s most exciting international match play event. Twenty-four of the world’s best golfers will compete for Samuel Ryder’s Cup; a tradition that began in 1927. The par 71 Italian hillside landscape covers a picturesque 7,181 yards (6,565 meters). An absolute match play masterpiece, Marco Simone’s essence lies completely in pure risk-reward golf.
All three par 5s at Marco Simone are reachable, 12 of the holes have water in play, and the course is covered in 77 bunkers. Host of the DP World Tour’s Italian Open, we have seen Marco Simone before. In fact, two of the last three Italian Open winners are on the European side in Nicolai Hojgaard and Robert MacIntyre). Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick finished runner-up as well in those two DP World Tour events. Does that give Europe an advantage this week?
I don’t believe so. And here's why.
Experience and performance matter
Experience in the Ryder Cup is the ultimate edge. Both teams have four Ryder Cup rookies. Sepp Straka, Ludvig Aberg, MacIntyre, and Hojgaard for the Europeans and Wyndham Clark, Max Homa, Sam Burns, and Brian Harman for the Americans. This is where the U.S. side can really separate themselves. Max Homa and Sam Burns have played in the Presidents Cup. They are familiar with the nerves of team play. That sense of not wanting to let down your partner and, more importantly, your country.
Harman (above) played on two Walker Cup teams and Clark competed in the Palmer Cup. Each is a current major champion. Unlike many American rookies before them, they have showed serious self-belief this past year. On paper, the podcasts are going to point toward the veteran European players, who have more Ryder Cup experience with 21 total appearances and a 36-39-12 aggregate record. The Americans, meanwhile, have played in 17 Cups but with better performance in those experiences, boasting a 34-22-13 cumulative counter.
Course setup will determine a lot
Additionally, these matches always come down to proximity scoring. Who can get the ball in the hole quicker when you get closer to the hole? Both teams are elite ball strikers. The U.S. players are statistically better around the green and the Europeans putting on them. Marco Simone has three short par 4s and three par 5s. Short game will be a factor in winning those holes.
Team stalwarts like Scottie Scheffler will need to putt better than their analytics. One curious cut I’m waiting for is a true take on the rough and width of fairways. European Captains have always grown the rough and narrowed fairways to slow down the American bombers. Europe has the best young driver in the game (Aberg) and the absolute best driver (Rory) in the world.
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The U.S. Team’s average Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) is 13 against Europe’s average ranking of 30. OWGRs alone won’t snap a 30-year winless record in Europe, which means the Americans need to implement a successful team strategy — much like the Europeans have done for decades. Let’s drop the negative candor around the Captain’s picks and understand why team play is so important. We failed for 20 years to find a successful partner for our two greatest players (Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson).
The 2023 team has partner teams within the overall group. Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele play well together. Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas have proven themselves repeatedly in team play. Zach Johnson followed the correct formula in asking the remaining players who will help them win a team event. The core of this American group did not come together in 2021. A majority of this cohort has known each other since their formative years. As a result, they are comfortable with one another.
Golf is a global game and travelling to Italy is not as big of concern as the media would have you believe. The PGA of America will build an ecosystem around the US side to ensure they stay focused and healthy.
With all the factors above — and although the away crowd and European backdrop will help keep it closer than Whistling Straits — in the end, I see a USA win.
I’ll cover more of the matches just like we did with the Solheim Cup. Stay tuned for the continuation of this series for both pre-match betting and in-game “live” match predictions. The Ryder Cup is the second most popular betting event in golf. Come join all of us in the action and, like me, bet the red, white and blue!
Keith Stewart is an award-winning PGA of America Professional. He covers the LPGA and PGA TOUR for Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, LPGA, and PGA TOUR. If you are looking to raise your golf acumen and love inside information about the game, check out his weekly newsletter called Read The Line.