Dave Tindall looks at whether home advantage in past Ryder Cups really does have a serious effect
By Dave Tindall. Last Updated: 06/09/12 3:51pm
Graeme McDowell: won the Euro Tour event at Celtic Manor shortly before he was a Ryder Cup hero there.
Home advantage is recognised as a major factor in many sporting events.
In golf it works on a number of levels. Familiarity with the course, weather conditions and the ability to read greens and hit off fairways that use a particular type of grass are all established factors.
But, in Ryder Cups, the mention of home advantage has often referred to the behaviour of supporters.
Calling for shots from the opposition to end in sand or water is one thing but previous Ryder Cups have been marred with tales of orchestrated verbal abuse and even spitting.
There's also the story of Andrew Coltart's ball being stamped into the ground by fans in his Ryder Cup singles game with Tiger Woods at Brookline in 1999.
Calls for calm have removed some of the more blatant crowd histrionics but home advantage has been used in more subtle ways with orders of play being changed and courses set up to favour the hosts.
But does it all have an effect? Has home advantage proved a significant factor in recent Ryder Cup history?
Here's a table of the last 10 Ryder Cups:
|2006||The K Club||Europe||18½||USA||9½|
The above table shows seven have been won by the home side and three by the visitors.
But if we only go back as far as 1997, home advantage looks hugely significant with the hosts winning six times out of seven.
Looking at the last 10, the Americans have only managed a single away win in that period and, perhaps significantly, that came on a layout on which they were familiar - the Brabazon course at The Belfry.
When they recaptured the Ryder Cup at the Belfry in 1993, five of the team had played there in the 1989 match which was tied and Ray Floyd had experience of the course from 1985.
And four of the 1989 team which tied had played in the heavy defeat in 1985.
By contrast, only two of the American team which lost at the Belfry in 2002 had played there before.
Although only two of the European 12 had played a Ryder Cup there, the course was familiar to the home side as it had been a regular European Tour stop, hosting the Benson & Hedges International for the previous three years.
Nine of the European 12 had played in all three of those events with Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley, Colin Montgomerie and Phil Price all recording a top three finish.
Unfamiliarity with the course also seemed to play a part in 1997. When America lost at Valderrama it was the first time many of their 12 had even set foot on the course, never mind about playing a tournament there.
Ditto at the K Club. None of the Americans had played there in competition while the Europeans knew it well.
The K Club had hosted the European Open since 1995 - 10 times on the Palmer Course (the one used for the Ryder Cup) and twice on the Smurfit Course and there were plenty on Ian Woosnam's team who had flourished on the Palmer. Lee Westwood was a two-time winner, Darren Clarke had won there in 2001, Padraig Harrington had two runners-up finishes, Monty had a second and a third, Jose Maria Olazabal and Robert Karlsson had posted top four finishes, Paul Casey had only finished outside the top 20 once while Paul McGinley had a host of top 20s.
That was eight Europeans with positive memories of the K Club so maybe it should have come as no surprise that Woosie's men roared to a joint record 18½-9½ victory.
For the Europeans there was a very similar scenario at Celtic Manor in 2010. Many of the Euros were proven performers there while the Americans were struggling to find Wales on a map never mind about possessing knowledge of the course.
The Twenty Ten course (where the Ryder Cup was played) had hosted the last three Celtic Manor Wales Opens.
Ten of the 12 man European team had teed it up there and with plenty of success. Graeme McDowell won the 2010 event, Luke Donald was third while both Molinari brothers boasted a top four. Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ross Fisher had both posted a top 10 there while Martin Kaymer was 12th in the 2010 event.
The Celtic Manor event had also been played on the Roman Road course (2005-2007) and the now defunct Wentworth Hills (2000 to 2004).
Jimenez won at the Roman Road in 2005 while, two years earlier, Ian Poulter triumphed at Wentworth Hills, whose configuration consisted of nine holes used on the Twenty Ten.
As it turned out the 2010 showdown was mighty close but, in the end, maybe the difference was the course knowledge possessed by the Euros.
As for this year's venue, past form is interesting.
The standout Medinah fact is that Tiger Woods has won two USPGAs there - firstly in 1999 and again in 2006.
Woods' likely partner Steve Stricker was seventh there in 2006 while Phil Mickelson was 16th. Jim Furyk also recorded a top 10 at Medinah in 1999.
But the Europeans have form there too.
In the 2006 event, Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia were joint third while Ian Poulter was ninth. Back in 1999 the jumping, hopping, skipping Sergio was famously runner-up to Tiger while Lee Westwood was 16th and 29th in those two USPGAs.
In other words, the European big guns have just as much useful course knowledge to pass on as the Americans. It adds further belief to the idea that this could be a tight, tight contest.