Golf bettors are looking forward to the Ryder Cup, which gets underway later this week at Celtic Manor in Wales. It’s not a major or an official event, but many top golfers will tell you that it’s the most significant event on the calendar when it appears every second year. Players go to great lengths to make the team, and then can become legends for coming through when it matters. The Ryder Cup can also be an interesting tournament for bettors. The unique structure of it provides plenty of betting opportunities, whether you decide to follow the lines or up the odds and place a parlay bet. If you are thinking about betting the Ryder Cup this week here are six things to keep in mind when handicapping the golfers and teams:
Experience matters – From time to time you’ll see a young guy break through in his first Ryder Cup – like Anthony Kim did last time. More often, though, it takes an appearance or two for a golfer to get comfortable with the format of the tournament and the magnitude of the event. As a general rule, then, the more often a player has represented his country, the more he can be trusted when things get tough. For the Americans, President’s Cup experience isn’t quite the same as Ryder Cup appearances, but it’s close.
Europeans excel at this format – Europe has won five of the last seven Ryder Cups. They have been competitive up to the end in the two they have lost. Two of their wins – in 2006 and 2004 – were total blowouts. The Americans may have the bigger names and perhaps the better individual golfers, but when it comes to this format the Europeans have a way of rising above themselves that the Americans have struggled to match.
Location is crucial – Bettors need to note that the Ryder Cup has gotten bigger and bigger each time it has been played, and with that the crowds that attend and the strength of the nationalism has grown. That means that the host team is playing with a very significant home field advantage. It’s showing up on the scorecard recently – five of the last six editions of the challenge have been won by the home team. The only exception to that recent rule was in 2004 when the Europeans absolutely massacred the Americans at Oakland Hills in Michigan.
Matchups matter – This really is a dream event for golf handicappers because we get to look at real head-to-head matchups. You can bet on head-to-head pairings most weeks on the Tour, but that’s not the same because this time the players have to look at their opponent when are about to hit every shot, and they have to see everything their opponent does. It adds an entirely new dimension to golf, and makes it much easier to handicap. What’s so interesting about the matchups is that the best golfer doesn’t always win – if they did then Tiger Woods would have a much better Ryder Cup record than he does. (In fact, Woods is a pretty lousy Ryder Cup player, and the U.S. broke a three event losing streak last time out when Woods was sidelined with a knee injury.) More than the talent, it’s important to look at how well players have done heads up in the past, how well they have handled pressure in key situations, and how well they handle risk-taking in their normal games – because taking risks is a big part of match play success. When you look closely at the pairings you’ll often find situations where one guy seems to have a clear edge over the other.
Momentum is real – In most sports I would tell bettors that momentum is an overblown concept. For reasons that I can’t explain, though, momentum in the Ryder Cup is very real. Golf isn’t typically a team event, so maybe it’s the format that causes guys to feed off of each other. Regardless, we have seen time and time again that a team can get on a roll and their players can be all but unbeatable on the day. This is particularly relevant on the final day when all of the team members play a singles match. It always seems that one team captures the momentum and picks up the bulk of the points on this day. Reading and responding to momentum is the key to Ryder Cup betting success.
Look at exotics – There are dozens of different prop bets available for the Ryder Cup before it starts, and many more are sure to be set up once action is underway. Astute bettors know that looking through these will often offer the best value. Oddsmakers are determined to offer props that will attract bettors, so they have to be interesting and appear to be lucrative. It’s almost impossible to set sports betting odds that work well every time, so mistakes are inevitable. By looking closely at the props to see what they actually mean you can spot real opportunities for profit.