Coming Friday the Ryder Cup 2010 will finally start. Europe is seen by many (including the bookies) as the clear favorite. But are they really? We have done some fun and games and analyzed the numbers; although Europe indeed scores better in many fields, the margin with the US is considerably smaller than one would expect upfront.

Europe is the favorite, but is this realistic? It’s only a few days away, the Ryder Cup 2010! The golfing world is slowly getting itself ready for the biggest bi-annual event in golf. Millions will be glued to their television sets to watch golf’s greatest stars fighting each other at the Celtic Manor resort in Wales. As usual, all golfing enthusiasts  seem to have an opinion on whom is going to win, which adds to the fun. Most people seem to favor Europe including the bookies, where the odds of Europe winning are 33/50 vs the USA 177/100. This is a relative big margin and I have to admit I am with Europe as well. However, is this assumption realistic, is it backed by the facts?

Of course results realized in the past are by no means always a guarantee for the future, but sometimes numbers can reveal  interesting facts. We have gathered and analyzed  some statistics of both teams to see whether any conclusions can be drawn. We will briefly discuss.

USA RC W RC L RC T Major pts World rnk pts 2010 Points Events Pts per event
Tiger Woods 9 13 2 34,02 9,04 90,53 12 7,54
Phil Mickelson 10 14 6 140,03 8,58 243,78 21 11,61
Hunter Mahan 2 0 3 22,20 4,76 190,72 24 7,95
Bubba Watson       60,00 3,78 162,88 22 7,40
Jim Furyk 8 13 3 13,05 7,60 240,77 21 11,47
Steve Stricker 0 2 1 14,41 7,82 215,46 19 11,34
Dustin Johnson       46,72 4,98 235,57 24 9,82
Jeff Overton       13,50 2,73 141,70 26 5,45
Matt Kuchar       42,38 5,35 253,52 25 10,14
Stewart Cink 4 7 4 12,40 3,27 78,91 22 3,59
Ricky Fowler       9,58 3,34 130,99 26 5,04
Zach Johnson 1 2 1 41,30 4,17 160,44 24 6,69
Total/Average 34 51 20 449,59 65,42 2145,27 266 8,06
Europe RC W RC L RC T Major pts World rnk pts 2010 Points Events Pts per event
Luke Donald 5 1 1 13,30 5,90 272,16 24 11,34
Ross Fisher       3,50 3,62 96,01 20 4,80
Peter Hanson       12,83 3,03 115,22 19 6,06
Padraig Harrington 7 11 3 5,60 3,88 107,52 21 5,12
Miguel Angel Jimenez 2 7 3 15,88 3,63 176,69 23 7,68
Martin Kaymer       130,25 7,10 282,02 20 14,10
Graeme Mc Dowell 1 1 0 109,30 4,86 206,07 21 9,81
Rory McIlroy       66,33 5,67 211,59 21 10,08
Eduardo Molinari       10,63 4,73 189,46 22 8,61
Francesco Molinari       8,20 3,35 125,86 22 5,72
Ian Poulter 5 2 0 17,30 4,72 146,96 19 7,73
Lee Westwood 14 10 5 127,75 8,50 273,95 16 17,12
Total/Average 34 32 12 520,87 58,99 2203,51 248 8,89


Americans are slightly more experienced. Looking at the Ryder Cup track record of both teams, we can see that the Americans have played more matches than the Europeans but simultaneously and not surprisingly (given that Europe won the last few Ryder Cups) they also lost more matches. Additionally the Americans are also slightly older (also when looking at the median age) and jointly have scored more points on the world ranking list (results realized in last 2 years).  Conclusion 1: the Americans are slightly more experienced than the Europeans, but also lost more matches. A tie……

Europeans seem to have the better momentum. Looking at the points realized in the majors of the last year, the Europeans win from the Americans, but this can mainly be explained by the fact that 2 out of the 4 majors were won by Europeans (McDowell, Kaymer) and only one by the Americans (Mickelson). However, when we look at the median results during the majors (so stripping out the best and worst results) we witness that the Americans have done better (28.11 vs 14.59), so their depth has been pretty good. We also looked at how many points were added to the world ranking list by both teams during 2010. Again Europe has added more points than the Americans during the season and here the median is pretty even. Conclusion 2: the Europeans have enjoyed better momentum during 2010, but stripping out the highs and lows, the Americans are right up there. A marginal win for Europe…….

USA Stroke avg GIR Putts Drive Dr Accur Age
Tiger Woods 71,10 64,10 1,75 295,80 57,20 34
Phil Mickelson 70,30 65,10 1,76 299,10 53,70 40
Hunter Mahan 70,70 68,00 1,79 291,80 68,20 28
Bubba Watson 70,20 68,50 1,76 309,80 56,20 31
Jim Furyk 70,20 67,10 1,77 276,00 71,80 40
Steve Stricker 69,80 68,30 1,75 282,90 69,70 43
Dustin Johnson 70,50 68,00 1,77 308,50 57,10 26
Jeff Overton 70,30 66,90 1,75 297,30 55,90 27
Matt Kuchar 69,50 68,90 1,74 287,00 68,80 27
Stewart Cink 70,60 68,10 1,78 192,30 63,90 37
Ricky Fowler 70,70 69,00 1,79 292,40 64,10 21
Zach Johnson 70,70 65,80 1,74 279,80 71,60 34
Total/Average 70,38 67,32 1,76 284,39 63,18 32,33
Europe Stroke avg GIR Putts Drive Dr Accur Age
Luke Donald 69,80 68,30 1,76 282,90 69,70 32
Ross Fisher 70,96 70,22 1,76 292,00 65,22 29
Peter Hanson 70,77 72,47 1,79 287,09 62,46 32
Padraig Harrington 70,80 61,90 1,75 292,10 56,70 39
Miguel Angel Jimenez 70,83 65,33 1,71 281,65 68,83 46
Martin Kaymer 69,97 69,60 1,74 293,27 64,80 25
Graeme Mc Dowell 70,36 75,34 1,76 287,26 67,60 31
Rory McIlroy 70,90 66,20 1,80 300,00 62,60 21
Eduardo Molinari 70,55 74,90 1,77 287,63 69,50 29
Francesco Molinari 70,28 73,79 1,79 281,11 72,20 27
Ian Poulter 71,50 62,50 1,80 286,80 62,70 34
Lee Westwood 70,61 68,52 1,73 293,71 67,07 37
Total/Average 70,61 69,09 1,76 288,79 65,78 31,83


Statistics mixed bag….. Looking at the statistics of all players it has to be said that not all players have been playing on the same tour, which may blur the outcome marginally (however the stats of players being active in both tours are not that different). We have looked at both the averages of the USPGA and the European tour. When looking at the outcome the Europeans win in most categories, but they lose in what is probably the most important one, stroke average! Luckily this will be matchplay. What is also noticeable, is that the Europeans are hitting their drives slightly longer than the Americans. This is somewhat surprising as the general perception was that the Americans were the long hitters. In terms of consistency (greens in regulation and driving accuracy) the Europeans score slightly better, whilst both teams score even as far as putting is concerned. Conclusion 3: no big difference, the Europeans win by a very small margin

So the overall conclusion is that Europe is indeed the favorite, but only by a whisker as far as I am concerned. Although the Europeans seem to have performed better during the season (they added more points to their world ranking in 2010, they did better at the majors), the player statistics of both teams are very similar. Moreover, the Americans still are carrying more points on the world ranking and seem to be slightly more experienced (they have played more matches in the Ryder Cup and are marginally older). Having said all of this, the Ryder Cup remains the Ryder Cup and hence predictions are worthless. There are so many other variables such as the course (which seems to be made for the Americas) and the weather (could be more in Europe’s favor) which could play an important  role. So let’s just enjoy it!

What can we say? The announced new Americas Cup class is a fact. We are going multihull! The newly announced rules will take the Americas Cup into a new era. The event is finally turning a much required corner which it should have taken some years ago. Not only should the new format be more exciting to both sailors and audience, it also should lead to a better level playing field and make it easier for competitors to access.  With some of the biggest changes in Americas Cup history, the organizers have taken a bold step forward.  It is now up to the sailors to prove them right!

In presenting a new format for one of the world´s oldest and most famous events, the Americas Cup, Russell Coutts and friends are taking the Cup to the next level. The introduced changes  are not only introducing a new boat class for the best sailors in the world, they also should create increased fairness, excitement and sustainability, values which are essential in going forward. We will briefly discuss the introduced changes and their effects.  

New spectacular boat class and new annual world series should bring back the fun again! Reflecting on  the 33rd Americas Cup a few thoughts come to mind. Firstly and for all, “let’s not have that one again!” As a result of all the legal disputes the Americas Cup lost credibility and appeal and hence was facing a big danger. Having said so, everybody interested in sailing was in awe when seeing the gigantic and enormously expensive multihulls in battle with each other. A third reflection was that everybody regretted the fact that there were no world series (like in the 32nd AC)  in the build-up to “Let’s create a class and world series that are fair and spectacular”  and this is exactly what they did. Let’s first look at the boat class: a new exciting class of boat is introduced, the AC72 wingsail catamaran, which will be raced from 2012. Simultaneously a scaled down version, the AC45 will also be build, which will be raced from next year onwards and will provide a fast-track for competitors in wingsail technology. The AC72 will be spectacular; with a length of 72 foot, width of 46 feet and with a wingsail of 130 feet high this beast should reach speeds in excess of 30 knots, making it the fastest boat class in the world. As these boats will not be easy to sail this also means that only the best (most fit, strong agile and multitasking) sailors in the world will be able to sail these boats…..and….no automated winches.  Hence this should guarantee that the AC will once again be the pinnacle of sailing; the fastest cutting edge technology boats with the best sailors on it!

Let’s now turn to the world series which will be organized into the run up towards the Americas Cup and which will be mandatory. They will start in 2011 on AC45’s and will be a combination of fleet and match racing, whilst each year an Americas Cup World Champion will be crowned. This should bring back the buzz we witnessed during former America’s Cup events and as importantly improve the connection with fans.

New rules create improved fairness and improved level playing field. We all know what happened during the last Americas Cup. The defender of the cup did define the rules and sadly this resulted in disputes and an uneven level playing field, which severely hurt the credibility of the event. This will not happen again. The future  Regatta Director will be part of an independent organization (thank god, no more disputes)  and will be appointed jointly by the Challenger and Defender.  Hence the Defender has forfeited some of the rights traditionally enjoyed by the holder of the trophy in the interest of making the competition more balanced and fair. Additionally majority approval of the competitors is required to amend the Protocol. Adding an independent jury and a well defined protocol of the 34th Americas Cup with few loopholes at first glance (however undoubtedly a few will pop up) and we have a much better base to start off from.

New format guarantees excitement.  No doubt the new format should be fun. Races will be shorter, faster and furious, which should be fun to watch. But it is not only the boats and future world series that will create excitement, there are lots of other elements that will be introduced to make the event more attractive. Firstly race delays will be minimized due to the new boat (which can sail with low wind speeds) and reliable venues. Secondly for the first time onboard cameramen will be onboard of the competing yachts whilst tracking technology will also play an important role, both should add to the fun and experience.  Thirdly it will be investigated how to better explain all the rules to a broader audience. Moreover geostationary spectator boats may replace the traditional buoys.  Fourthly, the experience will be leveraged through the internet (one global website for all team and racing content, games etc). These elements should attract a younger crowd and create excitement. Russel Coutts phrased  it right: let’s say farewell to the Flinstone generation and welcome the facebook generation, which also explains the move to multihull. He is right. It is clear! We are finally moving from the 20th to the 21st century and are reconnecting…….The youth forms the future and if no changes are being made, the Americas Cup will face the end rather sooner than later. This is also why a new youth Americas Cup will be introduced. It also means that the “older generation” should adjust and be willing to sacrifice; no matter what, they should not fear, they will be around for some time as some of them are still amongst the best sailors of the world and I am sure in the end they all will enjoy it as much as anybody else. As far as I am concerned that should finish the monohull-multihull dispute!

Lower costs, better returns means improved sustainability! The last Americas Cup has been far too expensive as far as costs are concerned. If this would go on, this cost spiral would severely limit the interest in participating and hence reduce the attraction of the race. Hence the organization has taken measures to reduce cost levels. For example on-board crew is being reduced from 17 to 11 (remember personnel cost account for 60% of a campaign), testing periods are being reduced, there will be limits as far as the number of sails, support boats and weather stations is concerned, etc, etc. Moreover the choice for multihull rather than monohull also turns out 20% cheaper (lower draft, logistic costs etc). All in all the costs for teams will range from EUR 40mln for a small team with a reasonable competitive profile to EUR 100mln for a big team. That makes this thing cheaper than some of the campaigns of the 32nd Americas Cup. All of this should raise the appetite of current and prospective teams. There are already some teams that want to buy the AC45 and a number of 8 challengers should not be out of reach, whilst rumors have it that at least one other American team will challenge the Defender BMW Oracle. Can’t wait for it!

So what about the returns? No doubt the last Americas Cup did not bring  sponsors what they had hoped for. In contrast the legal battle between the teams resulted in some negative publicity. This time they should get a better deal for their money; branding freedom, more competitors, increased high adrenaline competition, a world series of races rather than a 3 day event, on board cameras, better spectator possibilities, reconnection to the younger generation and lower costs. The math is simple; lower cost and better exposure means higher returns. Adding the bigger fan-base this should not only be good for sponsors, it should also help the long term future and sustainability of the Americas Cup!  Lets sail!