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How do you even go about starting to work out who will leave Rome with the Samuel Ryder Trophy next Sunday?

Well, you can’t, really. That’s why each team has spent a large number of euros and dollars on data gurus to ensure it’s them.

So, because I love nothing more than poring over the history books – OK, Wikipedia – and writing numbers that largely don’t matter into a spreadsheet, I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite Ryder Cup stats, because perhaps you’ll find them interesting. After all, of all the billions of pages on the internet, you’re on this one.

So let’s dive in.

Oh, wait, before we do, though, one small disclaimer. For anything historical, I’ve only gone back as far as 1979, when the GB&I team was extended to the continent, because we all know that is when the Ryder Cup actually started…

Dominant farce

Let’s tee off with a nice tap in.

The USA may be the defending champions after that record 19-9 victory two years ago, but since 1979 the Europeans have the upper hand, winning 11 of the 21 tournaments since the invite was extended to the continent, with the USA taking nine. There was also a tie in 1989, but we’ll take that because we retained the trophy having won it two years before.

So let’s call it 12-9 to keep things nice and simple.

Ryder Cup 1993
The 1993 Ryder Cup-winning team led by Tom Watson (Photo: Chris Cole/Getty Images)

Close call

Since 1979, Team Europe’s accumulated score in the match stands at 295.5, while their rivals are just behind on 292.5.

Forty-odd years and only three points separate them. Wrap your head around that for a moment before you carry on reading.

30 years of hurt

You may not know this because it’s a stat that’s largely flying under the radar, but the USA have not won on European soil since 1993.

How is that not being talked about more?!

The world was a very different place back then. Bill Clinton was president, John Major was prime minister, Boom! Shake the Room by Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince was the No 1 single, Nirvana’s In Utero the top-selling record, Only Fools and Horses was the most-watched TV show in the UK, and Manchester United were good at football.

As for golf, Nick Faldo was the best player on the planet, the reigning major champions were Bernhard Langer, Lee Janzen, Greg Norman and Paul Azinger, and Eldrick Woods was a high school kid who had only just started beating his dad regularly.

Oh, and 11 of the 24 players who will tee up at this year’s Ryder Cup were not even born.

And you’ve already worked this out because you’re smarter than me, but that’s the last time the USA claimed consecutive victories.

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Continents divided

Can we expect a big scoreline?

Recent history suggests so. The last four Ryder Cups have been won by five, six, seven and ten points.

It’s a funny one, this. When you look through the numbers, it’s apparent that once continental Europeans joined the fray, the maulings seemed to calm down. Indeed, the average margin of victory between 1983 and 2002 was just 1.7. Since then, it’s 5.9.

While it’s nice to wallop the Americans, a nice close Ryder Cup is always far more exciting.

Ryder Cup captains
Zach Johnson and Luke Donald will go head to head in Rome (Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

I capitani

Let’s not beat around the bush. Luke Donald should have been the captain from the off. I know it, you know it, even Henrik Stenson knows it.

And not enough is said about Donald’s ludicrous Ryder Cup record.

At 70%, Donald has the best scoring ratio of any European player to have played in at least three Ryder Cups. His return of ten-and-a-half points from a possible 15 has helped ensure he is yet to taste defeat in the tournament.

Zach Johnson, meanwhile, hasn’t done too badly himself, putting nine points on his team’s board across five Ryder Cups. He was only on the winning side once, though, in that ill-fated week in 2016.

Just a number

The Americans will head to Rome as one of their youngest teams in Ryder Cup history. And this is an interesting little nugget – the ten-year age gap between Collin Morikawa and Brian Harman is the smallest for an American team. Harman, at 36, is also the youngest oldest player in modern times. (Read that again and it will make sense, I promise.)

In terms of age across all 24, there really isn’t anything in it. The average age of the home side is 30.1, while the visitors come in slightly older at 30.3.

Well what a waste of time it was working all that out.

Ranking woe

It’s a whole different story in the world rankings, though.

The entire US team sits inside the top 25 for an average ranking of 12.8, while Luke Donald’s selections of Ludvig Aberg and Nicolai Hojgaard – both in the 80s, drags the hosts’ number down to 29.2.

Who cares though? They’re two of the hottest players on the planet right now. I don’t recall any England fans whining about Wayne Rooney’s inclusion at Euro 2004…

Ludvig Aberg
Ludvig Aberg will make a unique slice of Ryder Cup history (Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Major point?

Do the players’ performances in the majors running up to a Ryder Cup matter?

Well, it can’t for Ludvig Aberg, who is the first player to ever compete in the competition having not played in a single major. And the Americans will hope Justin Thomas’s controversial pick doesn’t come back to bite them – his record in the big three this year reads MC-65-MC-MC. Oof.

Viktor Hovland is actually top of the pops for Europe in this particular vertical, with an average finish of 10.3 across the big four. Jon Rahm is second at 15.8.

There is one American who sneaks in at sub-10, and that’s Scottie Scheffler – who else? – at 9.5, with Patrick Cantley next on 17.5.

The European team played 40 majors between them this year, with one win and 13 other top tens. For the USA, it was 46, with three wins, and 11 top tens – so pretty similar.

Each continent had four players who made the cut in all four majors, and of those the Europeans’ average finish was 16.6 and the Americans’ was 15.4.

What does it all mean?

Absolutely nothing. Just enjoy the nothingness this will ultimately make you feel.

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Rookie mistake

Ludvig Aberg, Nicolai Hojgaard, Robert MacIntyre and Sepp Straka will make their debut for the Europeans, while it’s Sam Burns, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman and Max Homa on the rookie roll call for Team USA.

They’ve plenty to live up to. Since ‘79, as many as 14 rookies have top-scored for their team, including nine who have been standalone. I’ve marked those with a little asterisk for you…

  • Larry Nelson 5-0-0 in 1979*
  • Manuel Pinero 2-2-0 in 1981
  • Chip Beck 3-0-1 in 1989*
  • Scott Hoch 2-0-1 in 1997*
  • Sergio Garcia 3-1-1 in 1999
  • Paul Lawrie 3-1-1 in 1999
  • David Toms 3-1-1 in 2002*
  • Chris DiMarco 2-1-1 in 2004*
  • Hunter Mahan 2-0-3 in 2008*
  • Keegan Bradley 3-1-0 in 2012
  • Jason Dufner 3-1-0 in 2012
  • Patrick Reed 3-0-1 in 2014*
  • Thomas Pieters 4-1-0 in 2016*
  • Justin Thomas 4-1-0 in 2018*

It’s worth noting that only one European has achieved this feat since the turn of the century. Come on Ludvig. The stage is set.

Five and oh!

Since ‘79, only three golfers have gone 5-0-0 at a single Ryder Cup: Larry Nelson in that first year, and then Francesco Molinari in 2018 and Dustin Johnson at Whistling Straits.

Looking forward to Jon Rahm adding his name to this list in a few days’ time.

Ryder Cup legends
Thanks for the memories, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter (Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

End of an era

And finally – because there’s always an “and finally” – this is the first time since 1995 that the European team will not feature Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter or Paul Casey.

What else is there to say about that? Good luck with your new endeavours, chaps.

Well, that was a big waste of time. See you in Rome!

Not done with Ryder Cup nonsense? Get fired up with our huge preview episode of The bunkered Podcast!

author headshot

Alex Perry is the Associate Editor of bunkered. A journalist for more than 20 years, he has been a golf industry stalwart for the majority of his career and, in a five-year spell at ESPN, covered every sporting event you can think of. He completed his own Grand Slam at the 2023 Masters, having fallen in love with the sport at his hometown club of Okehampton and on the links of nearby Bude & North Cornwall.

Associate Editor

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