A data-based who’s who of the 40th Ryder Cup 2014, including player rankings, tournament experience and rankings-based match predictions.

For only the second time in Scotland, the 2014 Ryder Cup tees off at Gleneagles today. The figures below give a visual overview of the teams and players involved, based on official world golf rankings data and player experience.

2014 Ryder Cup graphic summaries player rankings and Ryder Cup experience.

Rankings and Ryder Cup Experience

The figure above: a look at rankings and experience on each side of the Atlantic. Players are listed down the page in their official world ranking position, with Rory Mcilroy top of the pile and Lee Westwood down at the bottom (44th in the world). Players are then ordered by rank within their team, from left to right, to show how the two teams square up face-to-face. Experience is shown by the squares, with 1 square for each Ryder Cup the player has taken part in. 

At the top end Europe’s big guns win out, but lower down the field USA dominates, winning 8 of the 12 virtual head-to-heads. Hence, on rankings alone USA should win the tournament  (leaving pairing selection to one side).

While Europe lose out on rankings, they win on experience. Largely thanks to the inclusion of Lee Westwood, down at the bottom of the rankings. For USA, Mickelson and Furyk seem the lynch pins, holding 58% of the team’s total Ryder Cup experience between them. Each team has 3 debutants.
2014 Ryder Cup chart showing Ryder Cup player world ranking against average tournament ranking points..


Ranking Points Emphasise Importance of Mid-field battle

The world rankings are based on points – average points won per tournament, in tournaments over the last 2 years. A look at these points gives some more insight into the expected spread across the field.

In points, Rory Mcilroy is way out ahead at rank 1. Points then drop away steeply over the first 8 ranking places. Further down the ranking table, differences in points per ranking place are much smaller – there is less margin between players further down the table.

As a more representative measure of expected performance, the shape of this curve supports the idea that the performance of the lower ranked players on the day, will have bigger influence on the overall result. So while everyone is following the high-profilers around the course, keep a keen eye on the lesser-known faces, particularly the debutants, as these could be the key battles to swing it.
2014 Ryder Cup graphic showing Ryder Cup match predictions based on player world rankings alone

Match Expectations

Partnership selections are an interesting subject, with many relevant factors. Leaving these partnership factors aside, we can take a very simplistic look at who should win the matches, based on just the rankings, and this is done above.

For each match the colour of the solid bar shows the expected result, with the bar’s width effectively showing how likely it is to happen (wider bar has bigger difference in rankings and hence is more certain).

Europe seem to have taken a different strategy to USA. Europe’s pairings are generally of very similar rank (e.g. 1-2, 3-4, 10-11), where as USA’s are more split.  Europe are playing all 4 of their best players in the first 4 matches, where USA are saving 2 of theirs. All 24 players get a match on the first day.

The rankings say it’ll be 4-4 at the end of the first day, but at this level, golf is a game of small margins. The difference in average shots per round this year between the best and worst players taking part is just under 2 shots (Mcilory, Rank 1, 68.8 shots, Westwood, Rank 44, 70.7 shots, pgatour.com).

Will the rankings tell the tale? Either way, I can’t wait to find out.

Data from owgrm.com and the official Ryder Cup website.