………..Read on to find out the reasons behind Team Europe’s loss at the 2021 Ryder Cup. Feel the anticipation, the drama, and the excitement of this premier event.

What Happened to Europe at the 2021 Ryder Cup?

Named after English businessman Samuel Ryder who donated the trophy in 1927, the Ryder Cup has the attention of golfers worldwide. Europe and the US battle it out with their 12-member teams to gain glory and claim the coveted trophy. For three days, the golfers walk the green, and the spectators watch in anticipation.  The fiercely contested showdown between Team USA and Team Europe is one of the sporting highlights of the year, but what happened to Team Europe this year? Spectators and commentators alike had similar thoughts in mind when guessing who would win.

How the format works

September 2021 saw the 47th Ryder Cup played a year later than it was scheduled, which created even more anticipation for avid followers of this classic clash. It is important to understand that who wins the Ryder Cup is based on match-play and how players perform against one another, rather than on the scoreboard results per se. There are 28 matches played over the three days, with each match win seeing one point awarded to the winner.

Over the first two days of the tournament, foursome matches are played in the morning.  A foursome is like doubles, where two team members take turns to hit the shot. In the afternoons, we see the four-balls played.  A four-ball also involves four players, two from each team, but the player with the lowest score wins the hole for the team in these matches. On the final day of the tournament, 12 individual (single-player) matches are played.

Who has dominated the Ryder Cup?

This tournament has gained immense popularity over the years because it is one of the few events which sees the US take on an overseas opponent. It has also seen this respectable sport being turned into a cut-throat, take-no-prisoners, team sport followed by millions.

The US dominated until Europe joined the event as Team Europe in 1979. Prior to this, there were teams representing Great Britain and Ireland who played, but not Europe as a whole. Since its inclusion in 1979, Europe has won 11 and the US only 8. There was one tie in 1989, but Europe kept the trophy during this period. Filled with much controversy and tension, people are wondering what happened to Team Europe this year?

Numbers don’t lie

After this year’s Ryder Cup, GolfDigest did some interesting research into whether golfers’ form when entering the tournament, i.e., how they have performed in recent events, had any impact on how they fared in the Ryder Cup. The mathematically based results make for interesting reading.

There is no ideal way to test what form a golfer is in, but they looked at the points awarded to golfers on the Official World Golf Ranking. These points are awarded based on the strength of the tournament field, and the golfers finish in an event. “Simply put: the better a performance, the more World Ranking points.”, GoldDigest said. They had a sample size of 72 players, which they had taken from the last 3 Ryder Cup events.

Without getting into the mathematical technicalities and stats, a correlation was found between a player’s performance at the Ryder Cup and their recent Official World Cup Golfing Ranking scores. (Bear in mind that they only looked at players’ last five matches before coming into the Ryder Cup.) One would understandably assume then that a player in good form prior would perform better in the Ryder Cup?  However, this was not the case; the contrary was true. Players who arrived in top form produced disappointing results in their sample size.  This suggests that they had given it all in previous tournaments and had little left to give for this one. Bang went that theory GolfDigest, albeit a very interesting analysis! What else could make Team Europe fall from glory having to relinquish their title to their opponents?

Team players

We can speculate about the opposing team scoring an unprecedented number of Birdies or about team members just not stepping up to the mark, but no one likes a sore loser, let alone someone who blames their teammates.  This can, however, not be ignored. In golf match play, the player doesn’t really have control of their game, unlike in stroke play, where the golfer is pretty much in control of the result. In match play, there is no skill advantage for a player. Renowned English pro golfer Ian Poulter is quoted as saying, “You can control a match; you can dictate a match. You can try and play certain shots to put your opponent under pressure.”

 Mental & physical prowess

Perhaps it is all rather like a game of chess. A golfers’ mental strength and calculation are as important as their physical skills and experience. The pressure is on from the moment the tournament begins, and if players don’t arrive both mentally and physically over the three days of the tournament, and play as a team, then it does not bode well for success.

General thoughts are that Team Europe just didn’t arrive at all.  The Americans started in better form this year, and despite what the GolfDigest research indicated, this seemed to pip them to the trophy post. Several Team America players had brilliant pre-Ryder Cup results. In contrast, Team Europe members showed the opposite, and some players had very little playing time before the tournament at all.

What was indisputable in this years’ Ryder Cup is that the US entered the event with a lower World Ranking average, 8.92, versus the Europeans average of 30.4. When one looks at these figures, there is no doubt that the Official World Golf Ranking figures are a clear indicator of the strength of a team. Sadly, 2021 was not Team Europe’s year to hold the trophy, and Europe did not have the form to perform and ended up losing badly. Who knows what the next tournament holds for Team Europe and Team America!

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