With the Ryder Cup fast approaching, have the Europeans already gained an advantage before the competition has even begun?
In a little over a week’s time, the United States Ryder Cup team will make the journey overseas looking to accomplish something that no American team has been able to do since 1993, win on European soil.
Last weekend, nine of the twelve men who will be representing the Stars and Stripes in Italy took a scouting trip to the host venue for the 44th edition of the famous competition, Marco Simone Golf and Country Club.
Reportedly, only Jordan Spieth, who was one of Captain Zach Johnson’s six captain’s picks for this year’s team, and both of Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, who each qualified for the team on points, were the only three who missed out on the excursion across the pond.
Time will soon tell just how fruitful the short trip proves to be and whether or not the current Ryder Cup holders can follow up their dominant win at Whistling Straits two years ago with another historic victory on foreign ground.
At the other end of the spectrum, Captain Luke Donald’s European team will attempt to wash the bad taste of a historic 19-9 pasting at the hands of their American counterparts out of their mouths. The historic defeat on American soil at the last Ryder Cup was the largest defeat the Europeans had suffered since the rest of the continent first joined the competition back in 1979.
Team Europe may already have an edge over their Ryder Cup rivals.
Almost as soon as the U.S. contingent had boarded the plane back home, Captain Donald had also led his team on their own scouting mission of Marco Simone.
The key difference between the two sides is that, unlike their Ryder Cup rivals, the entirety of the European team will also be competing alongside one another in one of the DP World Tour’s flagship events this week, the BMW PGA Championship at the historic Wentworth Golf Club in England.
To put things in comparison, just two of the members of the United States Ryder Cup team will be in competitive action this week as both Max Homa and Justin Thomas compete at the 2023/24 PGA season opener Fortinet Championship in California.
Luke Donald and the rest of the European contingent will use this week’s BMW PGA Championship to test out potential partnerships, and with the DP World Tour pairing members of the host team alongside one another during the opening rounds at Wentworth this week, Donald will certainly get a feel for the pairings he wants to send out when the Ryder Cup begins in a little over a week’s time.
There is a strong argument to be made that the additional tune-up prior to the Ryder Cup combined with the opportunity for Luke Donald to evaluate potential partnerships already sees the Europeans with an edge over their American rivals.
One would think that an opportunity to play against European competition on European soil in the build-up to one of the sport’s biggest events would be too enticing to pass up, yet not a single member of the U.S. team has elected to play in this week’s BMW PGA Championship.
Billy Horschel, who will be one of few Americans to tee it up this week in England, expressed his disappointment in his fellow countrymen opting to bypass one of the DP World Tour’s biggest events.
“The U.S. Ryder Cup team was in Italy over the weekend,” Horschel told Golf Digest. “I wouldn’t expect them all to come and play here, but I thought some would welcome the chance to play an event in European conditions before the Ryder Cup. They could still go home next week and prepare.”
Billy attributed this reluctance to travel and play as one of several potential reasons why it’s been such a long wait for an American Ryder Cup win on foreign soil.
“But add it up and the end result is that we have been losing on courses the Europeans are a lot more familiar with,” he added.
On paper, the U.S. team looks to hold a significant advantage over their European rivals, an advantage that played out on American soil at the last Ryder Cup.
Yet, the 44th edition of the historic and famous competition won’t be played on paper, and whether or not the American advantage from last time travels overseas remains to be seen.
At least for now, it appears as though the Europeans are the ones who hold the edge over their rivals with the competition having yet to begin.