Justin Thomas

Ryder Cup: Big-hitting Americans hard to oppose

The European team will hope experience gives them the edge as we pick out our Ryder Cup predictions for the 2021 event at Whistling Straits.

Padraig Harrington’s men are very much the underdogs at 2/1 despite winning seven of the nine Ryder Cup contests that have been held this century.

Europe won by seven points at Le Golf National three years ago but the United States have a much stronger team than their opponents based on the world rankings, with all 12 players in the top 21 in the world.

There are six rookies in the American team compared to just three – Bernd Wiesberger, Viktor Hovland and Shane Lowry – in the European team.

Harrington’s three wild cards went to Lowry, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia and the latter said: “Hopefully it will work out better for us than it will work for them but I can see what they are trying to do. I can see that they need new energy in there. They need new experiences.

“It’s always a double-edged sword I guess. It’s nice to have a lot of rookies on the team because you have a lot of energy and a lot of new faces, but at the same time there’s a lot of pressure you know they are going to feel, even playing at home. It’s going to be interesting to see how they all react to what comes to them.”

Europe’s best hope is that the wind blows at a long course measuring nearly 8,000 yards. The American team is full of long drivers and they should have a considerable advantage off the tee.

Unless conditions make accuracy more important, it is hard to look past a USA victory at 8/15 as the first of our Ryder Cup predictions.

Practice makes perfect for Stricker

There will be some problems for captain Steve Stricker to deal with, not least the ongoing spat between Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, but the captain is determined to make the most of home advantage.

The 54-year-old revealed all 12 of his players are set to play a practice round at Whistling Straits, saying: “My message from day one has been to try to out-prepare the European team. It’s been that way throughout my career.

“Let’s get in as much practice as we can and maybe take a little of the stress of Ryder Cup week off our plates.”

Looking at the Ryder Cup odds, Justin Thomas looks a solid pick at 7/1 to be the top points scorer for the USA.

The stand-out performer for the USA on his debut in Paris in 2018, Thomas won four points from his five matches at Le Golf National.

Only the star European pairing of Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari were able to get the better of Thomas and Jordan Spieth, with Thomas also leading from the front by beating Rory McIlroy in the opening singles.

An alternative at 8/1 is Xander Schauffele, who recently won gold at the Tokyo Olympics. He is good friends with in-form Patrick Cantlay and the pair are likely to resume their Presidents Cup partnership from 2019, which produced two wins from four matches.

Sergio to shine

World number one Jon Rahm is the clear favourite at 4/1 to be the top scorer for Europe but better value lies with Garcia at 10/1 as the last of our Ryder Cup predictions.

Garcia is a talismanic figure for Europe and was out of form when given a wild card in 2018 but justified it in style with three wins from four matches to become Europe’s leading points scorer in the contest.

Garcia was one of only four Europeans to make it to the lucrative Tour Championship this month so is in good form this time and he could be paired with his fellow Spaniard Rahm, which would be a strong partnership.

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