This has all the makings of a classic Ryder Cup with 17 of the world top 18 ranked players on show, in what is surely the highest quality instalment of the competition since it’s inauguration in 1927.
The lowest ranked player from the USA’s collection of stars is Phil Mickelson at 25, as they make the trip across the pond confident of defending their title.
Europe were thrashed 17-11 in 2016, but whereas Hazeltine was long and wide, this year’s track, Le Golf National in the outskirts of Versailles, is short and narrow.
It has been a mainstay on the European Tour for several years now, hosting the French Open every year since 1990 (apart from 1999 and 2001).
Of course, this is all part of home advantage to try and negate the power of many of the Americans, with the driver an option on very few of the holes. Instead accuracy in dissecting this slightly quirky track will be paramount with plenty of water lurking.
Do the rankings tell the whole story?
On paper, the American’s are much the stronger but that is usually with the case with Europe having the better average ranking in just two of the last 10 editions of the Ryder Cup.
The USA’s ranking is at an all-time low of 11.2 and now with an amicable squad they go off as odds-on favourites. However, this European team has improved immensely from 2016, with their average ranking dropping from 27.3 to 19.1, making it their third-strongest behind the 2010 and 2012 line-ups.
How much will experience count for?
For so long, the USA had the older team, and this was during the period of Europe’s dominance but after Bjorn’s wild card picks, it’s the hosts that on average are older – 33.8 compared to 32.1 for USA.
Only twice since 1991 have the European’s been older and they won on both occasions (1995 and 2014). Furthermore, on the eight occasions where the disparity between the two sides has been greater than 1.7 years, the older team has won on five occasions.
Once again Europe have more rookies, five compared to their opponents three, and the team with more rookies has only won four times in the last 10.
However, crucially all four of those victories came on home soil as it’s certainly a less intimidating start to a Ryder Cup career. History suggests Europe can deal with blooding in the newbies, and Bjorn is particularly fortunate to have strong characters amongst his first-timers that won’t be fazed by the occasion.
It’s been quarter of a century since the USA won on European soil and it’s only twice happened since the Ryder Cup changed from Great Britain to Europe in 1979. Further to that, Le Golf National is a course very familiar to the Europeans, whose team includes the last two French Open winners – Fleetwood and Noren.
With that in mind, it was a little surprising that Justin Thomas was the only member of the visitors 12-man squad to take part in the French Open this year, with the only other members to have played a competitive round here being Brooks Koepka (2014) and Bubba Watson (2011), both of whom missed the cut.
The driver is taken out of the equation on many holes and this is a track that requires course management, which falls hugely in Europe’s favour.
USA go off as favourites, but the stats would have them very evenly matched. Add in course knowledge and we give the Europeans the edge, making them fantastic value as outsiders.