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This ingenious trick helped Europe win a Ryder Cup—could it work again?

September 25, 2023
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One of the glories about the Ryder Cup is that the host teams doesn't have to worry about being good hosts. In the weeks, months, and years heading into the competition, the home team has the ability to tailor the course in a variety of specific ways that can intentionally help their team—and hurt their guests.

It makes home-field advantage a very real thing at Ryder Cups—potentially too real, depending on who you ask.

It's a dark art the European team in particular has perfected due to the use of data and advanced analytics in its planning process. It's something I dive into in a little more detail in the video below, but in the course of putting it together, I came across an example from the last time Europe hosted the Ryder Cup, in 2018.

That year, the stats nerds within the European team found that when a number of key players on the U.S. side—Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Patrick Reed, among them—missed the fairway, they missed by an average of about 30 feet.

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Their goal became to maximize these errors, in two ways.

The first was growing out the rough, which was obvious to all the moment they arrived at Le Golf National outside Paris.

But the second was more subtle: It was to push the rope line for the gallery back, further away from the fairway. That way, when players missed the fairway, their ball wouldn't find a spot that likely was trampled down by the crowd. Rather it would be buried in deep rough—and deep trouble.

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The plan worked marvelously. Well, for Europe. Tiger and Reed, who was the hero for the U.S. in the previous Ryder Cup, in particular struggled, as Europe cruised to an against-the-odds victory.

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Will it happen again at this Ryder Cup? The rough is certainly up again according to early reports. I doubt we’ll get a carbon copy of this strategy, personally, because it was so dependent on specific U.S. players at the time (who won’t be in Rome). We’ll do doubt see different strategies to counteract U.S. team members this time. Whether it’ll work as well remains to be seen.

Once again, you can check out the full video right here: