Thursday, October 06, 2016

runners and ryders

It's time to grit our teeth and look, bleary-eyed, through the bitter salty tears of defeat and frustration at the revised Ryder Cup cumulative scores analysis.

Year Foursomes Fourballs Doubles Singles Overall
1979 3 5 11 17
1981 2 6 10½ 4 8 18½
1983 4 4 4 4 8 8 13½ 14½
1985 4 4 5 3 9 7 16½ 11½
1987 6 2 10½ 15 13
1989 3 5 6 2 9 7 5 7 14 14
1991 2 6 6 2 8 8 13½ 14½
1993 5 3 13 15
1995 5 3 2 6 7 9 14½ 13½
1997 5 3 10½ 4 8 14½ 13½
1999 10 6 13½ 14½
2002 8 8 15½ 12½
2004 6 2 5 3 11 5 18½
2006 5 3 5 3 10 6 18½
2008 7 9 11½ 16½
2010 5 3 5 7 14½ 13½
2012 3 5 3 5 6 10 14½ 13½
2014 7 1 3 5 10 6 16½ 11½
2016 4 4 11 17
Totals 78½ 73½ 83 69 161½ 142½ 107½ 120½ 269 263

A couple of statterrific nuggets for you, in some cases referencing some observations in earlier posts:

Obviously the USA's convincing 17-11 victory at Hazeltine has brought the aggregate scores a bit closer; if you divvy up the aggregates between the 19 contests there have been since the format was expanded to incorporate Europe in 1979 you find that the "average" match score is now 14.16-13.84 to Europe. The equivalent figure prior to the 2016 contest was 14.33-13.66, so if you round to the nearest half-point that means we've gone from, on average, a narrow 14½-13½ win for Europe to a 14-14 draw.

For the first time (slightly surprisingly) in this format of the competition the US team won all three days: Friday 5-3, Saturday 4½-3½ and Sunday 7½-4½. Even the thumping US wins in 1979 and 1981 involved the loss of a day (Saturday and Friday respectively). Europe have won all three days three times: in 2004, 2006 and 2014.

Davis Love III last played in a Ryder Cup in 2004, while Darren Clarke last played, famously, in 2006. This bucks the general recent trend of the contest being won by the captain with the more recent playing experience.

Four of the European team (Fitzpatrick, Sullivan, Westwood, Willett) contributed zero points (by contrast, every single US player contributed something). This is exceptional even by the standards of previous heavy European defeats in 1979, 1981 and 2008, where the pointless players numbered two, two and zero respectively.

It's too easy to blame this on the large number of rookies in the team, of course, although six is quite a lot. Only once in modern Ryder Cup history has a European team included more: 1999, when there were seven and Europe were narrowly defeated. By contrast, there were also six in 2010 and Europe came away with a narrow victory, and five in 2004, 1997 and 1991: thumping win, narrow win and narrow defeat respectively.

I did see a bit of live TV coverage on Friday evening, briefly on Saturday afternoon and then when the match was already pretty much tied up on Sunday night. Most of my listening to the singles contest was via Radio 5 Live during a drive back from Derby. Now, imagine the raw visceral excitement of live radio golf commentary. It's not as good as seeing it, but it's pretty good. Now imagine that same commentary being hooted into a bowl of soup through a snorkel by an asthmatic walrus with Tourette's, with the associated wild swings in levels of volume, intrusive farty noises and general comprehensibility. What I'm saying here is that AM radio sucks and Radio 5 Live not being on FM is a major pain in the arse, unless you happen to own a car with a DAB radio.

Here are some reasons for optimism next time: the match turned on small margins this time despite the scoreline - remember Lee Westwood butchered two winning positions in the Saturday fourballs and the Sunday singles to lose both matches. Reverse those and the outcome of either of McIlroy or Rose's very close singles matches and it's 14-14. Away wins are still very difficult; the Americans have two in nine attempts: 1981 and 1993. To put it another way, by the time 2018 rolls around it'll be a quarter of a century since they won a Ryder Cup contest on European soil. Europe are in a transitional period at the moment with a generation of Ryder Cup stalwarts coming to the end of their careers: Westwood, Donald, Harrington and Poulter for instance. Those who made their debuts this time will be better and tougher in two years' time.

One major reason for pessimism: the Americans are finally taking the Ryder Cup seriously and we'll never win one again. Oh well, we've had a good innings.


The black rabbit said...

I'd not say too many rookies.
I'd say a few of the wrong rookies.
I'd leave Rafa and Pieters in of course (both rookies but both excellent), but have possibly chosen Knox (always in form it seems and very at home and experienced on US soil and a WGC winner and almost the players too this year) and add either or both of Joost Luiten (been SUPERB all year) and Alex Noren (a REAL return to form this year and AGAIN demonstrated at St.Andrews today). Both of them would've been rookies and I think both might've performed better than Kaymer or Westwood or even Rose?

electrichalibut said...

Of course Clarke's problem re. rookies was that Willett, Fitzpatrick and Sullivan qualified as of right, so he didn't have the option of leaving them out. I suppose that was the motivation for picking Westwood & Kaymer, i.e. just to compensate with a bit of Ryder Cup experience (well, that and Westwood being his mate). I agree that Knox and one of your other two might well have been better, or maybe Casey after his run in the FedEx playoffs (if he'd actually been eligible for selection).