Ryder Cup betting guide
Photo credit: Craig Dudek

As we know, bookmakers do not predict outcomes when they set lines. What bookmakers do is set lines that will generate something as close to equal action on both sides of the line as possible. Therefore, it is not the fault of the line makers that bettors the world over continually make the same mistake when they bet on the Ryder Cup.

That mistake, of course, is thinking that the Americans will win because, on paper, they have the “best team.”

Let’s take a look at how to bet the Ryder Cup with a dive into the best bets and top picks.

Every time this event is staged, the Americans come into the Ryder Cup with recent major champions, with players with recent or current #1 rankings in the Official World Golf Ranking. Conversely, the Europeans usually come into the Ryder Cup with a few big names, a few past major champions, a few no names. And just about every two years, the European team leaves with the Cup. Here are the results of the past nine Ryder Cups:

  • 2018 — Europe 17.5, United States 10.5
  • 2016 — United States 17, Europe 11
  • 2014 — Europe 16.5, United States 11.5
  • 2012 — Europe 14.5, United States 13.5
  • 2010 — Europe 14.5, United States 13.5
  • 2008 — United States 16.5, Europe 11.5
  • 2006 — Europe 18.5, United States 9.5
  • 2004 — Europe 18.5, United States 9.5
  • 2002 — Europe 15.5, United States 12.5

Europe has gone 7-2 in the past nine Ryder Cups despite the Americans’ perceived talent advantage. And what is the line on the 2021 event? The Americans are a -215 favorite. 

I just can’t even with this.

An element guiding this line is that the Americans are the home side, and as such the American team has chosen a venue (Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin) which emphasizes length off the tee. The conventional logic is therefore that the American team which features bashers like Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka will basically bludgeon the Europeans into submission. 

Further guiding this line is that the Americans have nine of the top 11 players in the current Official World Golf Ranking on their 12-man team. The “worst” American player in the OWGR is Scottie Scheffler, and he’s ranked 21st in the world. So this should be a walk, right?

Nope. Because the Ryder Cup is not a 72-hole stroke play tournament. The Ryder Cup is match play throughout. And the Europeans have traditionally worked the Americans over like a speed bag in foursomes (alternate shot) and fourballs (better ball of partners) match play.

So here are the picks. You probably already know where this is going.

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Ryder Cup Picks and Best Bets

DAY 1 FOURSOMES WINNER: EUROPE (+185)

There is very little to like about the way the Americans are entering this competition. DeChambeau was recently griping about what screwing around with long drive competition did to his hands. Koepka was recently complaining about the inconvenience of playing in the Ryder Cup. Even Patrick Cantlay, who normally has nothing to say, essentially dismissed the Europeans’ dominance in this event as just short of lucky.

The Americans are going to be tight entering this competition. They know how it’s gone for them in recent years. They know that the golf press is spring-loaded to jump on them as overrated chokers if they lose. The Europeans, meanwhile, are effectively playing with house money as the visitors pitted against supposedly superior opposition. 

Count on seeing the likes of Jon Rahm/Sergio Garcia (Spain) and Paul Casey/Matthew Fitzpatrick (England) form teams of national players within the European continent that draw on that national pride in a way the Americans never seem capable of doing.

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DAY 2 FOURBALLS WINNER: USA (+100)

The Americans can still make birdies by the dozens in better ball of partners play. And by Saturday afternoon, the Americans should be past their competitive jitters and, hopefully, will be urged by their supporters either to rally from a deficit or to put the Cup out of reach.

Put it this way: If the Americans cannot win the Saturday fourballs, i.e., the last set of matches before singles on Sunday, there probably isn’t a path to the Americans wresting the Cup back from the Europeans.

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NATION TO LIFT THE RYDER CUP: EUROPE (+170)

Because there are 28 points at stake in every Ryder Cup competition, the potential of a 14-14 tie always looms. If the competition ends in a tie, the holders retain the Cup. Do you think that’s an insignificant factor? The book doesn’t. Europe is a +240 underdog to win the competition outright…but they’re only +170 to retain the trophy. This is the classic “the line is telling you something” moment. How is that half-point so influential on the line?

Because it’s the most difficult half-point to come by.

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