Europe Ryder Cup Favorite as U.S. Faces Losing Streak

Europe is favored to take back the Ryder Cup and extend the overseas losing streak of the American team as play began today in Newport, Wales.

Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson meet England’s Lee Westwood and Germany’s Martin Kaymer this morning to open golf’s top biennial international team competition at Celtic Manor. The U.S., which won the cup two years ago in Louisville, Kentucky, hasn’t been victorious in Europe since 1993.

“I would like to break that and take the cup home with us,” U.S. captain Corey Pavin told reporters on Sept. 28. “That’s what we’re here for. It has been a long time.”

Europe is a 4-7 favorite at U.K. bookmaker Ladbrokes Plc. That means a successful $7 bet brings in $4 plus the original stake. The U.S. is 7-4, with a tie a 10-1 chance.

Play started at 7:45 a.m. local in rainy conditions, with winds of as much as 26 miles-per-hour (42kph) forecast, according to the U.K. Met Office. Skies are expected to clear for the afternoon session.

“Europe’s players should have a bit more experience of the inclement playing conditions, and we’re expecting them to get off to a good start,” David Williams of Ladbrokes said.

The teams start with a four-ball competition, contested by two-man teams. The golfer with the lowest score on a hole wins it for his team. The players meet in four-balls and foursomes, or alternating shots, today and tomorrow, with singles matches scheduled for Oct. 3. The U.S. needs 14 of a possible 28 points to keep the trophy, while the Europeans need 14 1/2 to take it back.

Woods, Stricker

Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker of the U.S. take on Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher in the third match, while Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar play Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. The final group is Americans Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton against Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington.

It’s the 38th version of the competition, and the U.S. has lost on the past three occasions it’s been staged in Europe.

“There will be a lot of firepower out there, and it will be the guys who make the most birdies who will win,” Pavin said.

U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc expects a record 50 million pounds ($78.6 million) to be wagered on the event, with 74 percent of bets backing the European squad so far.

‘It could be a very expensive tournament for us bookies if Europe, the favorites, do win,” spokesman Rupert Adams said in an e-mail.

Record Wagers

Hill’s Adams estimates that the previous record was 35 million pounds wagered on the Ryder Cup two years ago. About 27 million pounds was bet on the event last time it was held in Europe, he said.

The pairing of Woods and Stricker is a 4-5 favorite to defeat Poulter and Fisher in the four-ball today, according to William Hill. The bookie expects Europe to be leading after the first session, making it an 8-11 favorite. The U.S. is a 13-8 underdog to be leading after today, with a tie at 5-1.

Europe captain Colin Montgomerie said it’s important for his team to get a good start this morning.

“It’s very important to get that momentum, to win that first series,” he said. “You take on that momentum into the afternoon to take a lead into Friday night. It’s so important to get the crowd behind us and keep them there.”

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