Pairings Key to USA’s Ryder Cup Chances

The 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome presents a challenge for Zach Johnson’s U.S. team against Europe. The U.S. hasn’t clinched a victory on European soil since a narrow 15-13 win at The Belfry in 1993.

Furthermore, they have never triumphed in the Ryder Cup on mainland Europe. This year, the competition takes place at the Marco Simone Golf Club. Two players from the European team have previously enjoyed individual success there during the Italian Open.

The U.S. squad, while lacking experience on the course, cherishes memories from the last Ryder Cup. Additionally, they proudly feature three of the four major winners in 2023.

Europe replaces USA as favorites

With all 12 of Johnson’s team in the top 25 in the world rankings, the USA appears to have a decisive edge over its European counterparts when it comes to quality. But having long been seen as the likely winners of the Ryder Cup, there has been a shift in the betting in the days leading up to the start. Europe is the +100 Ryder Cup favorite, with the USA priced at +105 and a repeat of the tie from the Solheim Cup at odds of +1100. Those odds suggest that a repeat of the USA’s record-breaking 19-9 win at Whistling Straits two years ago, priced at +3500, seems unlikely. A more realistic scoreline could be the 15-13 margin, available at +1100, from the USA’s last win in Europe.

One element that could give the USA an edge this time around is the fact that the competition will start with foursomes rather than fourballs. The foursomes format, which sees players in each pair take alternate shots, has not been used to start a Ryder Cup match in Europe since the USA’s last win in 1993. Europe captain Luke Donald has based his decision to start with foursomes on a combination of statistics and the makeup of his squad, as he is keen to get off to a fast start, particularly after Europe trailed the USA 4-0 after the opening session of the Solheim Cup.

The USA has launched with a fast start in the last two Ryder Cups in America, utilizing foursomes to commence the competition. In 2021, the team clinched the opening session 3-1, and in 2016, they soared to a 4-0 scoreline to initiate the Ryder Cup.

Johnson faces a pivotal decision in determining which pairings to deploy in both the foursomes and fourballs, given the team’s changes compared to two years ago. The USA team not only includes four rookies – Sam Burns, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, and Max Homa – but also lacks LIV golfers Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.

US PGA winner Koepka, the sole LIV Tour golfer on the USA team, arrived separately after participating in the LIV Golf tournament in Chicago the previous weekend. In 2021, Koepka paired with Daniel Berger in both foursomes matches and lost a fourball alongside Jordan Spieth. Johnson’s choice of partner for him will be intriguing to observe.

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Cantlay and Schauffele are a winning combination

Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele formed a winning pair in the foursomes two years ago, suggesting a likely pairing now. Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas also teamed up twice at Whistling Straits and four times in the 2018 defeat in France. However, selecting other pairings presents a challenge. Collin Morikawa and Dustin Johnson showcased a stellar partnership two years ago. Scottie Scheffler, the world number, paired with DeChambeau in the fourballs but didn’t play in the foursomes.

Rickie Fowler has earned a team spot due to his PGA Tour form this season, despite winning only one of his foursomes matches in four Ryder Cup appearances. The USA undeniably boasts superior individual talent across its 12-man team. A perfect synergy, like in 2021, is possible. However, playing in Europe poses a different challenge. With existing criticism over his captain’s picks, making the right pairing decisions is crucial for Johnson.

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