2004: Our Opinion - Shredding paper ‘favorites’

How many times leading into the 35th Ryder Cup Matches did you hear that the U.S. squad had the “stronger team on paper, but we’ll have to see how that translates . . .”

Ten, 20, 100?

After the Europeans took home the Ryder Cup for the fourth time in the past five competitions, it is time to understand that this so-called “better-team” stuff isn’t worth the paper on which it is printed. The matches have been staged 35 times, so this U.S. stretch of woe represents exactly one-seventh of the history of the Ryder Cup.

This is not a blip. This is a trend.

We are not offering a sour-grapes look at yet another European victory, nor are we blasting the effort given by the Americans. We simply are taking an analytical view of the invalid “favorite” status biennially bestowed upon the U.S. team.

The on-paper favorite tag is given to the Americans because their collection of players holds more lofty positions in the Official World Golf Ranking. The U.S. players also have earned more money coming into the matches, but, in truth, neither of these factors should come into play when determining a “favorite.”

First, the rankings. The World Ranking is based almost entirely on the results of stroke-play events. And, when you consider that PGA Tour events are worth more ranking points than PGA European Tour events, you realize the American players always will be ranked higher. So what if Tiger Woods has proven over the past year that he is a superior player to Colin Montgomerie in stroke-play events on two different tours? The Ryder Cup is match play, which is a completely different animal, so to determine a “favorite” using a set of rankings based on stroke-play results not only is silly, but inaccurate.

Secondly, the money. U.S. players come into each Ryder Cup with more dough in tow. But this also is an invalid indicator of how they will fare. Because the purses on the PGA Tour are much more lucrative than those on the European Tour, the cash totals become skewed and are rendered irrelevant. Besides, the money is won almost exclusively in stroke-play events.

Taking these two factors into consideration, it’s not hard to see why the U.S. team’s favorite status just doesn’t hold water. It is based on improper criteria, and leads to the unfair premise that the Europeans win only when the United States underachieves.

There is but one way to determine who is apt to succeed in the Ryder Cup, and that is to examine performance in past Ryder Cups. Based on this criteria, if you had to pick a partner for morning four-ball, who do you take? Colin Montgomerie (8-4-1 in four-ball matches) or Tiger Woods (3-5-0)? It’s an easy choice. Tiger sits.

Also based on this criteria, it is time to realize the result of the 2004 Ryder Cup was no upset. The better team won.

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