Venue: Le Golf National, Paris, France
Date: September 28-30, 2018
Course stats: Par 71; 7,247 yards
Defending champion: USA (17-11)
Friday: Sky Sports Golf from 6.30am
Saturday: Sky Sports Golf from 6.30am
Sunday: Sky Sports Golf from 9.30am
Click here for full listings of the Ryder Cup TV coverage
Ryder Cup preview
I’m not going to bore you with details about what the Ryder Cup is – I mean, it’s the Ryder Cup for goodness sake. If you don’t know what it is then I’d urge you to take a long, hard look at your life decisions.
Europe are gunning to win back the trophy – the very trophy that they have only lost three times in the past 11 meetings, and of course the last time they succumbed to defeat on home soil was back in 1993 – 25 years ago – at The Belfry.
Yet, despite that, the USA are odds-on favourites to retain the trophy they won at Hazeltine two years ago. Their team, under the watchful eye of Jim Furyk, is generally considered to be stronger than Thomas Bjorn’s side. They have the World No. 1, Dustin Johnson, the reigning US Open and PGA champion, Brooks Koepka, Captain America and Masters champion, Patrick Reed, and of course a rejuvenated Tiger Woods, who’s fresh off his first win in five years. While Europe also hold plenty of talent themselves, this is an incredibly daunting task.
As for Le Golf National, it is perhaps one of the most interesting courses that the Ryder Cup has ever witnessed. Set on the outskirts of the French capital, Le Golf National is the regular host of the Open de France on the European Tour. The layout has always been considered to be fairly quirky; a track that suits an accurate player from tee-to-green, a point that is backed up by the likes of Alex Noren, Tommy Fleetwood, Thongchai Jaidee, Graeme McDowell and Miguel Angel Jimenez all winning here in the last eight years. Water looms everywhere, particularly on the final few holes, meaning it’s imperative that you keep your ball in play.
Being the home side, Europe have the advantage of being able to set up the golf course as they please. Europe’s players are considered to be more accurate than the USA, so expect to see the rough a little thicker than usual along with tightened fairways.
So who is going to win the Ryder Cup?
Given the talent of Furyk’s side, it’s easy to see why the USA are the favourites at 4/5 with Betway.
But Ryder Cups aren’t decided by who has the best team on paper. Instead, the winner will be the team that strikes up the most powerful partnerships and, of course, performs better as a unit.
There is no doubt that the ‘Taskforce’ played a part in the USA’s win last time out, but even so, I would still go along with the notion that Europe bond better as a team. The wildcard inclusions of Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson – stalwarts of the European team in the past 20 years – could prove to be decisive in Bjorn’s team maintaining that chemistry on and off the golf course.
Europe also hold the upper hand when it comes to course experience. Fleetwood and Noren have both won here while Francesco Molinari has been runner-up three times in the past eight years. Only Paul Casey has not played, and indeed contended, here at Le Golf National in the Open de France.
As for the USA, Justin Thomas came over earlier in the year and finished 8th, while Bubba Watson and Brooks Koepka both missed the cut in their only appearances. The other nine players on the team don’t have any competitive experience at this course.
If you’re into short price betting, Europe offer the value at 13/10 and have to be the bet here.
And while many are predicting a close match in Paris, you can get 11/1 for what would be just the third draw in Ryder Cup history.
I need a hero
To tackle the top points scorer market, you need to try and find players that have the potential to play four or even all five matches.
Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy are the obvious candidates for Europe, but I suspect that two of the rookies, Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood, may well prove to be difficult to drop – especially if they’re sent out early on Friday and bring home points.
Both are superb from tee-to-green and hold excellent course knowledge, with the latter winning the Open de France last year. Given that the Europeans often dominate from a top individual points perspective, Rahm at 18/1 and Fleetwood at 22/1 are the standout choices.
For the USA, I think Webb Simpson offers some each-way value at 40/1 with five places paid.
Simpson has enjoyed a superb season and, while he’s known for that awful pop-up tee shot at Gleneagles four years ago, his Ryder Cup record – 2-3-1 – isn’t horrific. Simpson’s accurate tee-to-green game should be a perfect fit for Le Golf National, and given that he’s been in excellent form of late, he certainly holds a chance of playing four matches.
Top of the picks
Tiger Woods is the big favourite for top wildcard, but how many matches will he play? He’ll likely be drained after last week’s heroics, and playing 36 holes in a day could prove to be difficult.
Therefore the interesting one here is Sergio Garcia.
The Spaniard started well in Portugal last week before fading away over the weekend, and there’s every chance that he’ll be partnered up with compatriot Rahm and sent out on Friday morning.
If the two strike up a partnership, a la Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, Garcia could play more matches than we anticipate given his struggle for form of late.
Phil won’t thrill
Phil Mickelson finished DFL last week at East Lake, and I can’t envisage a worse course-fit for Lefty than Le Golf National.
This will be a strategic test where the successful players will drive the ball accurately.
Mickelson ranks 150th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee while lying 192nd in driving accuracy on the PGA Tour.
In short, this could be a disastrous week for Mickelson, who has lost more matches than he has won in Ryder Cups.
Back him to score zero points at 9/4, or simply oppose him in every match he plays.
If you want any more suggestions from our resident tipster, you can tweet him @KeelTimmins.