Once a deadbeat event with no apparent future, the Ryder Cup has been, ever since 1983, a treat for sports fans everywhere.
With few exceptions the contest has always been tight and delivered astounding drama – and typically in this modern period the European have prevailed.
The United States won 21 of the first 25 matches and since then? 11 of 17 have gone the way of Europe.
It's a stunning change and one that we must all be thankful for – from nothing golf has been landed with one of sport’s great events.
Who will triumph this week? We’re always told that US supremacy in the world rankings and major count makes them huge favourites, yet time and again they are toppled (or find a way of falling foul of European determination).
Many believe that this narrative will play out again this week. Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka are buddying up in the team room, but how much of that is real and to what extent is it strained?
And what of the European team? It has an experienced core, but can the fortysomethings excel one more time or will they fall short? Others in the 12 are simply out of form.
And what about the course? It looks like a links course but does it play that way?
Jordan Spieth has proved himself a decent judge of a layout and said of the test earlier this week: “It's an American links, isn't it? It's played from the air. You're not bouncing balls up to these greens. It's played from the air, but you also have to hit shots versus driving range shots.
“You have uneven lies that you have to work maybe against them or with them, hold winds, ride winds. (But) I think it's an American links, an aerial links. You still have to play very similar golf to what we experience on the PGA TOUR for the most part.”
Angles to consider
1/ Home advantage
Nine of the last 11 winners were playing on home soil. The two teams to buck that trend were Europe in 2004 (when they had a sensational captain in Bernhard Langer and the USA absolutely didn’t in the shape of Hal Sutton), and the Miracle at Medinah.
2/ A quick start is key
Seven of the last eight winners (ie all in the 21st century) were leading after day one. This doesn’t include 2010 when there was no completion of day one because of the appalling weather and the exception was the Miracle at Medinah.
3/ Course form
Seven of the American team have played Whistling Straits and five landed top 20s (four of them top 10s). Nine Europeans have played there and only two have logged top 20s and just Rory McIlroy has finished top 10.
Top Points Scorers
1/ Winning form
In the last three matches the top points scorers on both teams were winners that year on tour. In 2010 both teams had joint top scorers and three of those four were also winners that year.
4/ Ryder Cup specialists
Ian Poulter has twice been solo top point scorer for Europe and once shared the honour. Patrick Reed has twice top scored for the Americans.
The above angles have been used to create a shortlist from which the following players are selected.
United States to lead after day 1, 2 and 3
We’ve already established that playing on home soil is an advantage, that winners tend to get off to a fast start, and it’s also true that Europe has lost five of the last six first sessions – and the US has led after day one in two of the last three Cups. There is also that course form.
Rory McIlroy to top score for Europe
He’s never missed a session in his five appearances for Europe and has performed well away from home – both times he did so he collected three points. He’s due a really good week in the Ryder Cup rather than merely a good one. This course gives him that chance. He’s landed a top 20 and a third place at Whistling Straits in the PGA Championship. He also has a win this year (at Quail Hollow).
Top scorer on debut three years ago in Paris and he was also top scorer for the States in the following year’s Presidents Cup. Before then he had landed 3.5 points on his Presidents Cup debut in 2017, and also recorded 2.5 and 3.5 points in the Arnold Palmer Cup when at college. In other words, he likes team golf. Winner at Pete Dye’s TPC Sawgrass earlier this year.
4pts United States to lead after day 1, 2 and 3 at 9/4 (Ladbrokes)
1pt Rory McIlroy to top score for Europe at 11/2 (BetFred)
1pt Justin Thomas to top score for the United States at 6/1 (Skybet)