An epic Tour Championship playoff battle on Sunday saw team Europe's main man Rory McIlroy - 3.75 for top European scorer - capture the Fedex Cup, a victory watched and cheered by the majority of the European Team before they headed off for business. Rory is peaking at the right time and this can only be good news for the Europeans who head to Hazeltine as 2.88 underdogs, with the US trading at 1.60, and the draw priced at 13.00.
East Lake also saw Ryan Moore emerge as the player to force his way into the US Ryder Cup side's ranks as the last wild card. Ryan Moore has been arguably the most in form US Player not pre-qualified, with a win and multiple top-10s in his last 6 events. Moore's amateur match-play record is outstanding. Along with winning the 2002 U.S. Amateur Public Links, he also secured the NCAA Individual Championship, the U.S. Amateur Public Links, and the U.S. Amateur in 2004. Ryan is a player with a strong mentality who will potentially be equally adept in both foursomes and fourballs, and he looks a decent price to me in the "Top Rookie Points Scorer" market at 6.00.
The full lineups for Hazeltine are as follows:
Team USA - Captain: Davis Love
Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker, JB Holmes, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Ryan Moore
Team Europe - Captain: Darren Clarke
Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Matt Fitzpatrick, Rafael Cabrera Bello, Danny Willett, Andy Sullivan, Martin Kaymer, Chris Wood, Thomas Pieters, Lee Westwood
The US come into the Ryder Cup without a victory since 2008. Graeme McDowell sank the winning putt at Celtic Manor for the Europeans in 2010. One of the biggest turnarounds we've seen happened in Medinah 2012 when the US built up a strong lead heading into the singles but Team Europe overturned it with Martin Kaymer holing the all-important putt.
2 years ago at Gleneagles was a bit of an anit-climax with Europe strolling to a 16.5 - 11.5 win. Captain Tom Watson took some stick over the setup and this led to an overhaul of US tactics. There's a growing sense of camaraderie in the US camp this year and the appetite has been whetted amongst the Americans this year. The likes of Bubba Watson who may not be the best team player around has been expelled.
The venue - Hazeltine National
ARCHITECT - Robert Trent Jones (modifications by Rees Jones)
PAR 72 - YARDAGE 7,628
Interestingly only 9 players finished under par at the Hazeltine PGA Championship of 2009, and 4 of those players are members of the 2016 European Ryder Cup team: Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood finished T3 and Martin Kaymer and Henrik Stenson finished T6. Americans Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson finished T10 at even par. The winning score that year was just -8, with 2nd placed Tiger Woods finishing on -5.
According to the official site, if you are out of position at Hazeltine, "you will likely find yourself hitting over something. At times it is a natural feature of the land, and at times it is one of the many strategically-placed bunkers that closely guard the greens". Said greens are often multi-tiered with many difficult pin positions. Water hazards lurk in close proximity to a number of the surfaces and lake Hazeltine features. The track is a treelined, woodland style track for the most part and a theme throughout is fairway bunkers "pinching" in some of the landing areas. Total driving and strong iron play may prove to be the premium.
"I think that they have to drive it well and just kind of understand the nuances of the greens. When I say drive it well, I mean drive. Henrik Stenson is the only guy who can go out there and play that golf course with a 3 wood. In order to kind of have a leg up, you have to take out driver and find some fairways. Finding the fairways with your driver, it sets up the golf course so much easier. It actually makes the second shots so simple." - Rich Beem, 2002 PGA Championship winner at Hazeltine and 2016 on course commentator
Top US Points scorer
Patrick Reed - 6.50 - formed a strong partnership with Jordan Spieth last time around and the pair were a formidable duo, winning 2.5 points from a possible 3. Reed is somewhat of the American Ian Poulter and loves the competitive nature of the Ryder Cup. Patrick thrives on the atmosphere of the crowds, with or against. He went into the Tour Championship 2nd in the Fedex rankings and ended the year in 3rd spot. Reed won The Barclays, and he recorded a huge and consistent 11 top-10s this year on the PGA Tour. Patrick amassed 3.5 points from possible 4 in the 2014 Ryder Cup despite European dominance. He's decent odds to prove the main man again for the US this time around.
The European side will field six rookies this year as opposed to just 2 for the Americans and I feel the market is getting carried away by this. The European "Rookies" are all top players who have amassed many big event victories between them. Danny Willett won the green jacket at The Masters in 2016 and these guys won't be phased. The likes of Matt Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters have five wins combined since 2015. I expect a tighter affair than the odds may suggest but still expect the Americans to nick it.
The Americans are hungry and with conditions set up to favour them at Hazeltine, and with the hostile crown behind them, Dutching the scorelines 14.5:13.5, 15:13 and 15.5:12.5 for the Americans pays odds of 3.55 and I feel this play offers some value. If you fancy a really tight affair, Team Europe + 1.5 on the handicap at 2.05, looks a decent play.