Every 2 years I fail to get excited for the Ryder Cup. Until it begins that is. Then it becomes utterly enthralling for 3 days of dramatic ebb and flow.
In the last 25 years, since the players have been evenly matched, USA have tended to have the upper hand in the Sunday singles (one v one matches) while the European team has had the upper hand in the the fourball and foursomes (a pair from each team playing either with one ball per player or one ball per pair) on Friday and Saturday.
As an outsider it appears as if the American’s are typically playing for the flag and themselves. They get pumped, the chants of USA go up, and the one on one duel of the singles appeals to their individualistic approach. On the other hand the European team don’t really have a Flag/Nation to play for. Instead they have a strong sense of shared purpose, they know what they need to do to succeed and they play for each other - which is critical in the pairs matches, especially the foursomes. You can see the longevity and success of some of the pairs from Olazabal/Garcia and Faldo/Montgomery to Rose/Stenson. Add in the points from pretty much any pair that Ian Poulter plays in - a classic example of a good but not great individual making the team better than the sum of its parts - and you can see the foundation of European success.
With 12 points on offer in the singles and 16 across the various pairs matches is it a surprise that Europe have dominated in recent years?
Team trumps individualism, that’s my rather simple hypothesis anyway. Would love to hear other people’s explanation and even an insider perspective or two!