A year out, there might just be signs of separation between what the assumptions and the evidence each tell us about the next Ryder Cup.
It has become accepted wisdom that the US will head into the match in Rome as strong favourites, irrespective of the weighting given to home advantage by recent history.
For that proposition, consider what the European captain Luke Donald told Sportsmail earlier this month: ‘They should be favourites. We have been underdogs many times over the past 30 years and found a way through, so there is nothing wrong with being the underdog, because that mentality can be quite powerful.’
Luke Donald has spoken about the challenges of facing the US in Rome next September
However, the Presidents Cup between the many stars of the US and 12 Internationals over the past four days was a reminder that golf is not played on paper and that team events have a magnificent habit of inserting swings of momentum where they are least expected.
That Davis Love’s US team won by 17.5-12.5 would indicate a strong victory, but that was devilishly misleading for the purposes of broader conclusions. The truth is the numbers were far closer than any forecast and they simultaneously flattered the Americans.
Early in the match, after Friday’s fourballs, the disparity was as wide as 8-2. But by the close of play on Saturday the gap was down to 11-7 and halfway through Sunday’s singles the projected score based on the on-course scenarios was 16-14 to the US. The margin dragged itself back out to five via a few hairy moments, but even that was far tighter than most anticipated for the circumstances.
Europe’s stars, including Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, will always give them a shot at glory
The US triumphed in the Presidents Cup but it was closer than many anticipated ahead of the event
At this moment, a reminder of those circumstances is necessary: the Internationals were playing away against a team featuring the World No 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9, and a lowest of 25. Even more significantly, the Internationals had also lost four of their team to LIV, including the last-minute departure of Cameron Smith, the Open champion. For the Internationals, with an average world ranking of 49, to rattle the US after such a build-up certainly bodes well for Team Europe.
Granted, an enormous amount can change in a year, but after the recent turbulence in golf, it is indisputable that while the US have lost more likely starters, they also have a seemingly bottomless reserve of talent. In Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa, they were able to field the bulk of the world’s top nine against the Internationals.
It will also not be lost on Donald that in a format where partnerships are worth their weight in gold, the pairing of Thomas and Spieth was worth four wins from four across fourballs and foursomes. Beyond their combined success, Spieth also won his singles for a perfect week, while Max Homa, four times a winner on the PGA Tour since the start of 2021, didn’t drop a point from four assignments.
Their team showed that even with the loss of some key stars to the LIV tour they have the depth to be able to compete
The internatioinal team were able to compete admirably despite the loss of four stars to the LIV tour
As a fired-up rookie, Homa thrived in the heat of competition in a manner not dissimilar to his predecessor Patrick Reed, but of course he brings none of the grubbiness.
Despite losing Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau from their 2021 winning side, the Americans remain in the rudest of health. Yet it is tempting to ponder how close they might be run when the opposition includes Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick and Shane Lowry. It allows for a marginally more optimistic view than a week ago.
Max Homa, a rookie, looked fired up for the US on his Presidents Cup debut in North Carolina
Kim was the Presidents Cup revelation
If there was a revelation from the Presidents Cup, it was the South Korean Tom Kim. The 20-year-old, ranked 20th in the world, was the driving force behind the International recovery from a dire cause on the Saturday. In a chest-thumping frenzy, he was a classic example of a player who grows in the heat of matchplay.
Form of Migliozzi should be explored thoroughly ahead of Ryder Cup
It’s not a bad time to be an Italian with Ryder Cup aspirations, so it is worth monitoring the form of Guido Migliozzi. The 25-year-old from Vicenza shot a final-round 62 on Sunday to win the Open de France for his third DP World Tour title. His flag-hunting over water at the 18th led to his winning birdie and also proved he isn’t a player easily lost to nerves.