If you missed yesterday’s column laying out the case for why both the Americans and the Europeans will win the 2018 Ryder Cup, click here.
Sometimes bloggers will play cheap tricks with their columns in order to get clicks, and it may appear that the cliffhanger I ended yesterday’s column with could be perceived as one.
I can assure you, that wasn’t a bit – I legitimately remained undecided before, during and after I spilled over 3,500 words into the column in an attempt to form some sort of conviction on which team would be victorious.
But after a good nights sleep, I awoke with the epiphany that the betting decision I’ve struggled with is a battle between logic and faith – the right bet for you comes down to how much you care about the Ryder Cup.
As long as Tiger Woods isn’t playing, most golf fans don’t have a favorite player to root for during a tournament. While fans will tune in more often when bigger stars are in the mix, they tend not to have an inherent bias towards or against whoever is at the top of the leaderboard. The viewing experience is more driven by great shot-making ability and the drama that unfolds as the tournaments heads to the Back Nine.
If I had to pick a favorite golfer, mine would be Henrik Stenson. I’ve always enjoyed his game, his demeanor, and I don’t feel like such a schlub to pull Three-Wood from my bag instead of Driver when I know he’s made millions off that club. But if he tanks in a golf tournament or loses a closely contested match, will my weekend be ruined like it would if the Syracuse Orange got crushed by Georgetown – of course not! I’m more interested in whatever storyline plays out at the top of the leaderboard to drive my satisfaction.
But the Ryder Cup is different. It’s more than just an exhibition event between 24 of the best golfers in the world – it’s a contest of National Pride. For three days, golf fans from both sides of the Atlantic exchange barbs and rally behind their flag as the fervor of nationalism consumes them. It’s difficult for an American fan to not feel a tingle down their spine when a “U-S-A” chant breaks out, and likewise for a European fan when an “Ole” chant is started. And unlike if your favorite football team loses in Week 12 and you can say “oh well, better luck next week”, if your National Team loses the Ryder Cup you have to wait two long years to seek redemption.
I bet against the Americans in 2014 and while I was glad to cash that bet, I hated the way I had to do it. Outside of the debut of Captain America, it absolutely sucked to not only see the Americans get trounced but to have to root against them, especially on Friday when the event was still in the balance.
And then when I once again bet against the Americans in 2016, it was even worse! That whole weekend was the Fourth of July crossed with Wrestlemania crossed with the Ghostbusters marching the Statue of Liberty down Broadway, and I missed out on the fun because I was too busy pinning my hopes on the likes of Andy Sullivan and Martin Kaymer. Sure by Sunday I went all in on the Patrick Reed experience, but betting against the Americans in one of the most insane Ryder Cup’s of all time is one of my most regrettable gambling decisions ever.
There’s absolutely no way I can bet against the Americans, and that’s a position most passionate European fans are likely in too. Is it really worth putting your financial interests ahead of your country in what is expected to be one of the all-time great Ryder Cups? For me, that’s a hard pass, and my money will be laid on the superior talented United States team to win outright at -130. I don’t often recommend betting with your heart, but this event warrants that exception. Bet with your flag on this one, and even if it’s the losing proposition you won’t regret it.
But for those who aren’t plagued by the biases that I suffer from and either don’t have a strong allegiance or want to bet for the sake of betting, then the more logical play is to bet the Europeans to retake the Ryder Cup for all the reasons I outlined yesterday. Shop the price around, as I’ve seen them anywhere from +120 to +150 to win. But from an odds perspective, the Europeans shouldn’t be less than a coin flip against the Americans on their home turf, and certainly not as much as a +150 underdog. If you’re a stickler to sniff out a bad line and exploit it, that’s the play for you.
But even if you’re aren’t, while the Americans win on raw ability the stars are aligning for the Europeans in the intangibles department. All of them will have a significant advantage in both course set up and experience at Le Golf National over the Americans, and because the window is closing for several Europeans their national pride could fuel them to a victory. If the Europeans win, it’ll be by a score something along the lines of 15-13 or 14.5-13.5 at 10/1, which could also serve as a middle ground for American bettors to hedge their homer bet with a close European Win and still enjoy the full benefits of rooting for the Stars and Stripes.
In terms of betting on player props, here’s a few that have caught my eye:
1. Top Scoring American – Justin Thomas +550, Rickie Fowler +900
While the course set up might stifle some of the longer hitting Americans, this course should suit well for both these two. Besides the leg up on his teammates with his Top 10 finish this summer at Le Golf National, Justin Thomas possesses the skills to thrive in match play. He’s most known for his prowess with his driver despite his small frame, but when he dials it back with an iron or fairway metal there are not many golfers as adept to hit the correct side of the fairway for a good approach as he is. And with how great of a ball-striker he is with his irons and his ability to run hot with the putter, he’ll be a force in foursomes, fourball, and singles.
Meanwhile, though Rickie Fowler’s form hasn’t been stellar of late, he’s excelled at American golf courses that are similar to what he’ll see at Le Golf National. Fowler won the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in 2015 and the Honda Classic at PGA National in 2017, both of which are solid templates to compare to Le Golf National. And like Justin Thomas, Fowler is a tremendous iron player and has a hot putter that suits perfectly for a match play format.
The danger of this prop is you’re not just betting on the golfer but also on who their teammates will be, who their opponents will be and how many matches they’ll go out for. I expect Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler to appear in at least four matches as they are complete golfers with good temperaments and can be paired easily with almost anyone. I also expect them to be paired with the better players on the squad, or even with each other! The conditions are right for both of them to lead the Americans in points.
2. Tony Finau Over 1.5 Points +125
There’s usually a breakout rookie during a Ryder Cup, and while most are calling for Tommy Fleetwood to be that guy my money is on Tony Finau to be the one to surprise in his debut. While I don’t expect him to play in foursomes, he should be out there for both fourball matches in addition to his singles match on Sunday, bringing his total matches played to three.
Fourball is a good place to play rookies because there’s not as much pressure in that format. The goal is to be aggressive and pile on birdies, and that’s what he excels at. Finau ranked 12th in Birdie % on Par 4’s and 8th in Birdie % on Par 5’s in 2018, all of which is attributed to how great of a ball-striker he is tee-to-green.
He could form one half of a dynamic fourball team with other aggressive birdie machines like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson or Brooks Koepka. If he can stave off the nerves, this might be a prop that cashes before he reaches Sunday Singles.
3. Thorbjorn Olesen Under 1.5 Points -175
This bet isn’t one that doubts Olesen’s ability, but rather that I don’t think he’ll appear in more than two matches. I don’t see the Europeans boat racing the Americans over the first two days, meaning that whether they’re involved in a close match or being blown out they’ll have to lean on their more experienced and talented players. It’s very likely we’ll see Thorbjorn only once before Sunday.
If that’s the case, then he’ll have to sweep both his matches to hit the over on the prop. I don’t see the least talented rookie on either side batting 1.000, and even with the juice, I’m confident in taking the under on this one.