You've heard the word before: stalwart. It seems to be reserved for one week every two years when describing a powerhouse player on either side of the draw. The 2023 Ryder Cup will feature its fair share of stalwarts as well as players vying to be described as such in the future. There are also plenty of participants who have individually come up short in prior Ryder Cup appearances.
Not all records are built the same. Some players thrive in foursomes, while others prefer the birdie barrage of four-ball. Sunday singles has a way of making a competitor feel alone after two days of team competition sets the stage for the deciding session filled with pressure and nerves.
The Europeans always appear to have the edge over first two days, while the U.S. prefers the singularity of Sunday. The data from the last 20 Ryder Cups back up this sentiment.
Ryder Cup points won since 1981
- Four-ball -- Europe: 87.5 | U.S.: 72.5
- Foursomes -- Europe: 81.5 | U.S.: 78.5
- Singles -- Europe: 115.5 | U.S.: 124.5
It's an interesting exercise to go back 20 Ryder Cups and review the numbers, but does the partnership of Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson really have that much bearing on the proceedings at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome? No, it does not.
The players have changed, the game has changed, and so has the strategy behind sending out certain pairings in certain formats.
Take the team of Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, who garnered a 2-0-0 foursomes record together in their debuts at Whistling Straits in 2021. Their skillsets are steady and nearly identical. They possess strong ties off the golf course, and they have experience with each other in Presidents Cups and other team events Europe will look to their steady hand of Justin Rose in this format as the oldest man in this year's competition has an impressive 7-2-1 foursomes record in his Ryder Cup career.
While Schauffele, Cantlay and Rose have high floors suitable for foursomes, Jordan Spieth has a high ceiling perfect for four-ball. Collecting a career 5-2-0 record with the likes of Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed, Spieth's scoring ability and masterful short game make him a headache in this format.
Spieth thrives in chaos, but this has hindered him in singles where he is still without a full point. Collecting a 0-3-1 record on Sundays, the Texan seeks his first win after tying Tommy Fleetwood in 2021. His good friend, Thomas, could prove to be the pace setter come Sunday if the contest is tight as he boasts a 2-0-0 singles record.
Should Thomas lead off for the Americans, it could lead to a rematch of the opening bout of the 2018 Ryder Cup when he got the better of Rory McIlroy in a tremendous battle at Le Golf National. McIlroy has since improved his singles record to 3-2-1 with a victory over Schauffele two years ago.
Ryder Cup records: Team USA
Max Homa, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman and Sam Burns will be making their first Ryder Cup appearances.
Ryder Cup records: Team Europe
Ludvig Aberg, Sepp Straka, Nicolai Hojgaard and Robert MacIntyre will be making their first Ryder Cup appearances.