It may have been a nervous afternoon and much too close for comfort for many European fans, but in the end Europe got over the line and won back the Ryder Cup in the afternoon sunshine at the Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome yesterday, defeating the USA 16½ – 11½.
As Tommy Fleetwood’s putt on the 16th green was conceded and it was confirmed that Europe had got to the minimum 14½ points needed to win back the cup, many bettors also breathed a sigh of relief as a huge gamble on Europe had been landed.
As detailed in our preview article, there had been a big move in the betting markets in the run-up to the event, with consistent money pushing the odds for a European win from over 2.5 to 2.0 by the start of the Ryder Cup.
We look back on what was an extraordinary week and what we can take away from a golfing and betting point of view.
The Money Talked – and it said Europe were Favoured
As detailed in our preview article, a range of factors combined in the build-up to the Ryder Cup to suggest Europe were favoured and many of these factors played out as expected.
Europe’s home advantage at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Italy proved to be a crucial factor in their success. The European team capitalized on their familiarity with the course, using local knowledge to gain an edge over their American counterparts.
In particular they played the opening three holes much better than their opponents, getting early leads in many matches which they maintained through to the end. Captain Luke Donald had encouraged his players to play three hole matches in practice to simulate getting off to a strong start and it certainly paid off.
The raucous home crowd also played their part, creating an electric atmosphere that spurred the European players on to greatness.
Perhaps most importantly though, Europe’s top players were on blistering form. The “Big Three” of Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and Jon Rahm combined for 9 wins, 2 losses and 3 ties between them over the week, leading the side by example and delivering a host of clutch moments when they were really needed.
On Friday evening in particular, Europe produced a succession of stunning moments on the 18th hole as Hovland, Rahm and then Ryder Cup stalwart Justin Rose all holed crucial putts to deliver half points for their team.
VIKTOR HOVLAND!!! 🇳🇴🇪🇺#TeamEurope | #RyderCup pic.twitter.com/KCe0pWZn5Y
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) September 29, 2023
Those half points changed the course of the afternoon from one in which the USA looked likely to significantly reduce Europe’s lead into one in which Europe actually increased it.
Team Europe’s Unwavering Cohesion
One of the standout features of Team Europe’s Ryder Cup victories over the years has been their unwavering team cohesion.
Once again, this unity was on full display as the European players rallied together to overcome Team USA. Captain Luke Donald’s leadership and the close-knit relationships among the players were instrumental in fostering this strong team spirit.
Whilst there were question marks about the unity of the US team – and in particular their preparation for the contest with 9 of the 12 players not having played competitive golf for over a month coming into the Ryder Cup – Europe’s players were ready to go and united as one.
That unity was there for all to see as the European players embarked on wild celebrations after sealing victory late on Sunday. Shane Lowry was seen wildly celebrating with his team-mates even as he was still playing his match down the 18th hole!
That kind of team spirit was often referred to during the week as Europe’s “thirteenth man” and did seem to make a crucial difference in their hard-fought victory.
Rookies Prove Resilient
The conventional wisdom in Ryder Cups is that rookies tend to struggle in the white-hot cauldron of the event and need to be protected in proceedings.
However, this time round the rookies proved more than resilient, with Max Homa top scoring for the US team with 3½ points, Ludvig Aberg partnering Viktor Hovland to a record 9&7 victory in Saturday’s foursomes, Nicolai Hojgaard firing in seven birdies in his opening match and Bob MacIntyre going unbeaten for the week.
Key to this success may be finding suitable partners for the rookies to guide them through the experience. Certainly Justin Rose was an inspired pick to play alongside Bob MacIntyre, putting an arm around his shoulder when things were tough and showing him the way with some stunning golf on the closing holes of Friday’s fourballs.
Justin Rose made THIS putt at the last as Team Europe went undefeated on day one. #RyderCup pic.twitter.com/mNW8TduEfY
— Ryder Cup (@rydercup) September 29, 2023
All the rookies will be better off for the experience and you can expect many of them to feature in future Ryder Cups.
The Clues were there in the Betting Markets
It wasn’t just the outright market that had clues as to the final result with Europe being heavily backed leading up to the event.
In the top point scorer markets, home favourite Rory McIlory claimed 4 points and topped the market at 9/1 after being strongly fancied, coming into the event in good form and with a point to prove after the disappointment of Whistling Straits. Only once since 1999 has a US player topped the overall points scorer market at the Ryder Cup so it very much pays to back Europeans in this market.
For the US, Max Homa was also heavily tipped to be their top scorer at a generous price of 11/1. The American went 4-0-0 at the Presidents Cup last year and came into this event in strong form. He also played in the Fortinet Championship just before the Ryder Cup so was not as rusty as some of his compatriots.
Homa is a gritty competitor and showed it by holing a clutch putt at the 18th to win his singles match and keep the USA’s dying hopes of a win alive.
The moment that kept @RyderCupUSA alive 🇺🇸@MaxHoma took an unplayable on No. 18 before coming up clutch to win his match and extend the @RyderCup. pic.twitter.com/h4H8i4s8nh
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 2, 2023
It was perhaps surprising to see Homa priced as high as 11/1 to be top US points scorer and that may have been down to his rookie status, which as discussed does not seem to be as much of a hindrance as it used to be in the Ryder Cup.
In the correct score market, Europe won 16½ – 11½, which was a more comfortable margin of victory than it looked like being for much of Sunday and slightly flattered the Europeans.
It does show one of the quirks of the Ryder Cup however that once the overall result is known, those on the losing side often effectively give up their individual matches and the margin of victory becomes wider for the winning side.
Indeed, it is worth noting that the last five Ryder Cups have all been won by five points or more, despite the perception of it always being a close event. This century only two have been won by less than three points. So in future Ryder Cups it may be worth taking wide scores, which are often available at long odds.
It was an extraordinary and thrilling week’s golf and a victory for the ages for Europe.
The gamble on Europe to win the Ryder Cup paid off handsomely, and golf enthusiasts and sports bettors alike are celebrating their foresight. There were also profits to be found in the side-markets of top point-scorers and the correct score.
Europe’s victory at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club was a testament to their superior team cohesion, outstanding individual performances, and the power of home advantage.
You have to look back to 2012 at Medinah for the last time an away side triumphed at a Ryder Cup and it does seem like home advantage is becoming harder and harder to overcome.
Certainly Europe will have their work cut out next time at Bethpage Black in New York, where the home crowds are likely to be extremely raucous and it may be borderline unplayable for the Europeans.
For the time being though, Europe can bask in the glory of an exceptional Ryder Cup victory and of putting their names down in history as the Golfing Gladiators in Rome.