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Across the Pond

Ryder Cup: Home and Away

by Matt Cooper
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Prior to 1979 the Ryder Cup had lurched and limped into a state of near farce. Great Britain and Ireland had won two of the first four matches, all of them pre-Second World War, but then claimed just one victory in the next 18. There was a tie in 1969, but it failed to herald any kind of sea change: America won by five points in 1971, by six in 1973, and by ten in 1975. The deficit was down to five again in 1977 but only because fewer matches were played. As a way of limiting the damage, it was a pretty desperate one.
Urged to do so by Jack Nicklaus, GB&I asked continental Europe to join in and yet it didn't quite work out to begin with. Finally the 28 match schedule we know today was set in place, but Europe lost by six in 1979 and nine in 1981. That latter result took place at Walton Heath in England which, coincidentally, is where next month's British Masters will take place.
It was the last time a classic old school venue hosted the Ryder Cup in Europe and also the last time the home team got a thrashing. In the dim and distant past GB&I managed three wins in 22 attempts; in the modern era Europe has claimed ten in 19 encounters. The farce has become a worldwide sensation.
What effect has home advantage had on the match? Time to take a closer look.
The Result
As we have seen Europe holds a slight advantage in number of overall wins, but on home turf that bias is even stronger. It has won six, lost two and the match was tied in 1989. Moreover since that famous trouncing by the 1981 American team (11 of whom were or would become major championship winners) that scoreline is 6-1-1 which is quite a profound edge.
The First Session
Surprisingly Europe has tended to get off to poor starts. It has led after just two of the Friday morning series, been trailing four times and there have been three ties. Delving deeper, the European captains spotted that foursomes were not a good starting point. When the alternate shot format kicked things off from 1981 to 1993, Europe never once led, trailed twice and was tying twice. Since the introduction of Friday morning fourballs the tally is even: two leads, two deficits, one draw.
The Second Session
Traditionally Europe's strongest session. The home team has won seven Friday afternoon sessions and lost just one. Why does this only total eight? Because in 2010 there was no Friday afternoon session because of the weather disruption. For what it's worth the second set of matches was won by America.
The First Day
Those second sessions have been dominant for the home team. So much so that Europe has led seven times and trailed just once by the end of the Friday (again, Celtic Manor is discounted because of the schedule chaos).
The Third Session
More European bias: Saturday morning has been won four times with two lost and two tied. At Celtic Manor there was only a third session (no fourth; they played two foursomes and four fourballs). Europe won them again.
The Fourth Session
A similar story to above: 4-3-1. A footnote: since fourballs kicked the match off there has been a little messing around with the Saturday schedule (plus the Celtic Manor re-jigging), but one constant is that since 1997 Europe has been unbeaten in the second set of foursomes played: four wins, one draw.
The Second Day
On home soil Europe has won Saturday four times with two defeats and two ties (it also won the "phantom" second day in 2010). What about the state of the match? Europe trailed America heading into the 1981 singles but has never done so again since. Seven times it has led and in 2002 the match was tied.
Home advantage has never stopped the head-to-heads being Europe's Achilles heel. Four win, five defeats.
It is often mooted that Europe can pair-up compatriots and garner extra motivation from them. It's not quite a "home" advantage, but it's along similar lines. So how do the numbers stack up?
Here are the records of the various one nation combinations used since 1979 and below is more detail about the pairings.
Spain - 19 wins, 8 losses, 3 halves: 68.33%
England - 17 wins, 13 losses: 56.67%
Scotland - 3 wins, 5 losses: 37.50%
Ireland - 3 wins, 7 losses, 3 halves: 34.42%
Italy - 0 wins, 1 loss, 1 half: 25%
Sweden - 0 wins, 1 loss, 1 half: 25%
Unsurprisingly, the Spanish rule this particular category and would be yet more dominant had Severiano Ballesteros and Antonio Garrido not misfired in 1979 (1-3-0). Ballesteros and Olazabal were 11-2-2 alone, Ballesteros and Manuel Pinero 4-1-0. In relation to this week Sergio Garcia has won 70% of his points when paired with a fellow countryman (3-1-1). Can he repeat with Jon Rahm?
Here's a pub quiz question for you: Name the three English combos with a 100% record? (Answer at the bottom of the page.) Beyond that the real standout is that Ian Poulter and Justin Rose have a 4-1-0 record together, comfortably the best over more than two matches.
The Rest
A combined haul of 34% from a record of 6-14-5 suggests that putting two countrymen together might be a pretty desperate attempt to push square pegs into round holes. There's more to it than a shared passport.
Since 1979 there have been ten matches in America and nine in Europe. If we take more than two points earned as a significant contribution how many have there been from Americans? And does being home or away impact on that?
At home Team America averages 4.20 players per Ryder Cup earning more than two points, but that figure drops to 3.22 on European soil. Perhaps more telling is the spread. Seven times at least five Americans significantly contributed at home, but the only time it has happened in Europe was during the Walton Heath thrashing. 
Quiz answer
English 100% combinations: Paul Casey-David Howell (2-0-0), Ian Poulter-Luke Donald (1-0-0) and Justin Rose-Chris Wood (1-0-0).