Why the ‘superior’ US team only won 36% of Ryder Cup matches since 1995

By Neville Berkowitz, BizNews Premium member*

As the dust settles after the 2023 Ryder Cup played at the Marco Simone course outside Rome, there are a few realisations to consider after the American team’s yet another loss in Europe.

Since 1995, the Ryder Cup results strongly favour the home team for numerous reasons, such as more experience playing the course, the course set-up to suit their strengths and reduce their weaknesses, and raucous home crowd support.

The 2023 Ryder Cup saw the European Team with an average world ranking of 33 compared to the average world ranking of 13 for the Americans. That’s a formidable difference.

However, once again, Europe remains unbeaten on home soil since 1997, beating the Americans for the 6th consecutive time in Europe 16.5 to 11.5 points. The Ryder Cup is played biannually.

The much lower world-ranked European team has beaten the USA team in America 3 out of 7 times since 1995 in 1995, 2004 and 2012 – a 43% win record.

Since 1995, Europe has won 9 Ryder Cups and the USA only 5. The European win rate is marginally under two out of three.

For various reasons, the Europeans play better as a team. The Americans perform better as individuals than as a team.

For example, most European team members play in Europe and on the PGA tour in America. They are familiar with the host course or can get familiar without crossing the Atlantic Ocean, as the Americans do when the Ryder Cup is played in Europe.

Members of the European team playing the PGA tour bond easily as a “minority” group in the USA, as do other players from different nations playing the tour.

Possibly the most critical example is the European team has “no I in team” as the Americans do. The American team members are individual players week-in and week-out without the team bonding experienced by the European team as they traverse America playing the tour.

The latest Ryder Cup had the steadying hand of the calm Luke Donald as their captain. He was unbeaten when he played four matches in the Ryder Cup. His team management, vice-captains’ experience, selection choices, and motivation were of the highest order.

Over the past 14 Ryder Cups, the Europeans have won 110.5 points (53%) in the two-ball team matches compared to 97.5 (47%) from the Americans. On average, Europe is marginally better on Sunday’s individual matches at 85: 83 win rate.

The team events count for 16 points, and the individual matches 12. That is a 1.3-point difference out of the available 28 points. On average, Europe goes into Sunday’s individual matches 1 point ahead and shares the spoils of Sunday’s individual games.

On two occasions since 1995, Europe has won by one point- in 1997, played on European soil and in 2012, played in America. In 1999, America won by one point on home soil.

Overall, since 1995, Europe has accumulated 17 more points than the USA, an average of 1.2 points per Ryder Cup. The 16-team events accounting for 1.3 points more than the 12 singles were the counting sway for the results of Europe.

The American Ryder Cup teams need to have much more experience in foursomes and fourballs and to work out their best combinations.

There was a month after the final tournament of the 2023 PGA Tour- the Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup. There was plenty of time for the finally chosen US team to practice the team events and singles against each other on numerous occasions.

There are nearly 17,000 golf courses in America. Indeed, there must be one that resembles, or can be made to compare, the Marco Simone course.  

The public records show they played together on one occasion- 28 September 2023, at the Marco Simone course. What happened to the other 29 days before the Ryder Cup? The hubris of the superior-ranked US team is evident in this lack of proper preparation to beat the European team in Europe.

Is this solution too simplistic, or so obvious it was overlooked?

Since 1995, the Europeans have had a 43% win rate in America, while in Europe, the USA have a zero win rate.

In Europe, the Americans invariably beat themselves due to their lack of proper preparation and less-than-stellar mental game when under pressure.

Mentally, as a team, Europe appears to have more “fire in their belly” than the USA team, who become dispirited easily, and it becomes infectious in the team.

The team members’ body language displays their emotions as their heads drop, shoulders slump, and grimaces appear on their faces. The captain and their vice-captains’ body language mirrors the team members. The wives and girlfriends follow suit, creating a wall of negativity.

Having the European spectators vocally rooting for their team seems to subdue many of the USA team, who, back home, are used to having adulation when individually playing well on the PGA Tour and raucous support from their home fans in the Ryder Cup.

The same defeatist emotions were shown when the Europeans beat them on their home soil.

The “Miracle at Medinah” in 2012 was an especially gut-retching experience for the American team playing on home soil. Europe came to Sunday’s individual matches with America needing to win four matches only and get one tie out of the 12 matches. It seemed all over with only the “fat lady to sing.” However, the mentally more robust and courageous “inferior” ranked European team won 8 times and tied once out of the 12 matches, winning by one point – 14.5 to 13.5.

A full-length movie was made of the “Miracle at Medinah” and remains on amazon.com. This movie adds further salt into the wound for the American team and their raucous fans.

When the US Ryder Cup teams arrive in Europe with superior world rankings, they are victors in their minds based on their hubris. Whether the lower-ranked European team are ahead or behind during the Ryder Cup matches, they draw upon the “Spirit of Seve” (Ballesteros), developing additional courage and determination further propelled by their legions of vocal supporters.

The American team often wilts when this pressure is applied. The higher you put yourself on a pedestal, the further you have to fall.

The American zero-win record on European soil since 1997 and their overall record since 1995 of only 36% wins validate some of the above points.

Will the American team’s management and players learn and practice how to beat Europe’s team in Europe and more than 57% of the time in the USA? Not if their extreme self-belief in their abilities continues, they don’t see the light of their past errors and don’t implement and improve upon some of the solutions offered above.

  • Neville Berkowitz is a long-time BizNews Premium member. He is hoping his contributions will encourage other members of the tribe to share their own thoughts on subjects they know.
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