What constitutes the ideal betting market? A subjective question, of course, but two criteria immediately spring to mind. First, one for which we can analyse a deep bank of data and therefore form strong conclusions. Second, one in which that analysis enables us to write off numerous participants with confidence.
These dynamics apply to all golf tournaments. The Ryder Cup, however, presents an incomparable opportunity.
Rather than the usual, 150-odd competitors, there are only 24, and we know them all well. Furthermore, there is no chance of a 'fluke' - a miraculous week for an outsider, holing everything in sight. Because the requirements to finish as top overall scorer, and realistically for top team scorer, are crystal clear and actually very predictable.
Playing all five rounds offers a massive advantage
Consider the following stats from this century. In seven of the nine renewals, the top overall points scorer played in all five rounds. The exceptions were Ian Poulter in 2012, who played four and 2010, when there were only four rounds as the format was re-arranged due to weather delays.
Of the 18 top team scorers, 12 played all five rounds. In that 2010 renewal, both winners played the altered maximum of four. The quartet of exceptions to these golden rules almost exclusively played four rounds out of five. In 2012, one of the five players tied for top USA scorer only played three rounds - Dustin Johnson.
Therefore we can safely conclude that it is a massive advantage to play all five, and virtually impossible to win without playing four.
In any renewal, this can only apply to a limited number of players. Excluding that revised 2010 format, in the other eight renewals, only 43 players appeared in all five rounds - less than a quarter of the total.
They are generally pretty easy to identify. The only hard one to find was Thomas Pieters in 2016. So our task is simply to identify the quarter or so of the field who could theoretically play the maximum.
Employ this process of elimination
First, Team Europe. I'm happy to state four players - veterans Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, plus rookie Bernd Wiesberger - will not play more than three.
Matt Fitzpatrick is still looking for his first full point and must be considered very unlikely to play the full quota. Paul Casey has never done so in four appearances. That leaves six players.
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Maximum of six Europeans short-listed
I could make a case for any of the others playing the full quota. Of them, Tyrrell Hatton is rated least likely, but he does boast some of the best PGA Tour form among his side. Debutant Viktor Hovland is top class and has youth on his side, although I'm sceptical his short game will stand up in a Ryder Cup.
Instead, focus on the other quartet. Tommy Fleetwood was magnificent at Le Golf National in 2018, but is without his equally magnificent partner Francesco Molinari this time. He hasn't been in quite the same form, but certainly does have the game for a firm, fast, wind-exposed Whistling Straits layout.
I expect Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy to play all five. The latter has never missed a Ryder Cup round, while the former is the best player on the planet. That leaves Shane Lowry. Again, he has the perfect skills-set for Whistling Straits and the Irishman is strongly tipped to partner McIlroy.
Rory is an outstanding price
Next, consider the odds. Combined, backing all four for Top European Points Scorer pays around 1.9310/11. I reckon that is a solid bet and wouldn't deter anyone from that strategy. However to build up the odds, I will exclude Rahm who, at 4.47/2, offers prohibitive value. The Spaniard is carrying a lot of weight on his shoulders and it rarely pans out that the best performer across the season in strokeplay reproduces in this team format.
Instead, back Rory at 7.26/1. That's simply too big about someone set to play all five and preferable to 11/1 in the combined scorer market, given that Europe start as clear underdogs. McIlroy was superb in the last away Ryder Cup and has finished second in three of the last four top European lists.
For Fleetwood and Lowry, I prefer each-way in the Top Overall Points Scorer market at 22/1 and 25/1 respectively. The early weather forecast is breezy and conditions are not dissimilar to an Open Championship. Who better than the 1-2 at the 2019 Open?
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