Le Golf National opens itself to the Ryder Cup circus this week and is arguably set up for one of the most exciting renewals ever in the events history. Despite the betting, which is slowly coming back into line, I can't remember two more closely matched teams and in terms of talent is simply two of the best teams the event has witnessed.
The course is equally impressive and I've no doubt the drama will be palpable with the amount of holes that lends itself to match play golf. As discussed in a previous preview I am not one for putting up the bunting but when it comes to making a few quid the bunting will be hung up containing the colours of the team I have wrote on my betting slip.
Thankfully for those reading, it is Europe this time. This takes me back to 2012 and me sitting with a few friends in Carton House enjoying a weekend of golf and watching the Ryder Cup at Medinah on the telly. Having persuaded my friends to have a few quid on USA to win we sat down that night in the clubhouse to have a few drinks and celebrate the procession.
That didn't materialise however and Europe's heroics put me in a hole financially. There was a lot of noise in the clubhouse that night, mainly from me cursing every Europe putt that dropped. After Kaymer holed that 7 footer the barman came over with four pints of Guinness. 'Where in America are you guys from?'. Just outside Belfast I said...
Thankfully no repeats this time and I can get right behind the Europeans. The $2.38 has disappeared as expected and $2.30 is top price with $2.25 general. It is still the value in the outright and I'll be having a bet.
The rankings don't lie and clearly the USA team has a lower average world ranking. That being said a bunch of the Europeans do play in a handful of lower ranked events all year and suffer because of that. Nevertheless the hosts have never had a more experienced team.
Rose topped the world ranking heading into last week and Dustin narrowly edged ahead after the Tour Championship. McIlroy has had his sunday troubles this season but remains a formidable opponent in any match play game, especially in his own continent. Poulter, Stenson and Garcia have a wealth of experience to call upon and although pressure will be on Garcia giving the controversial pick, he will probably pull out enough in this game to prove Bjorn right.
Molinari is now a major champion and arguably the European golfer of the year. The rookies are where Europe look particularly strong. Hatton and Olesen will be the two slight worries about how they will take to this format but I'd be confident that Hatton can get something out of his aggression whilst Olesen looks set to be paired with McIlroy which could be crucial for his experience.
In Fleetwood, Rahm and Noren they have three of the most exciting rookie prospects the event has seen. Fleetwood and Noren have won the last two renewals of the French Open here and in Rahm they have a potential top points scorer. Rahm played well here in the summer before some back 9 woes on the final day but with a possible partnership with Garcia they could strike up something special.
There seems to be a lot more balanced pairings in this European side compared to the USA. Dustin and Koepka will do well to reign in their attacking nature around a course where the Europeans have learned which strategy pays. Mickelson is struggling badly and if he is soundly beaten on day one will be lucky to peg it up again before Sunday.
Watson and Reed are also struggling and a colder climate and slower greens might not be the ideal place to start finding your game. Although they have a forceful rookie in the shape of Justin Thomas I still think this should be a pick match in the betting so the 2.38 currently on the exchange is still fair value in my eyes.
With a variety of markets on offer it is easy to get carried away in the emotion of the Ryder Cup and keep writing those dockets but I try to exercise caution as this is not our bread and butter to make profit on. Nevertheless there are a few bets worth risking.
I'll take a punt on two Europeans making up the top overall points scorer. I do think this will go to Europe with the home advantage and given the value in the outright it filters down through the side markets. Justin Rose should be clear favourite in this market and I was tempted but I will opt for Molinari instead at a good deal bigger price.
The Italian has played in 2 previous Ryder Cups but has only teed it up in 6 matches. He is yet to win a fourball or foursomes game in 4 attempts but this time around we welcome a totally different golfer. Molinari has three runner up finishes here at Le Golf National and will be considered the most experienced course form horse of the team. His record in the Ryder Cup so far is sketchy but his apprenticeship is served and I think this time will be different.
He is a perfect fourball and foursomes partner for this track and I expect him to get 3 games at least before the singles on Sunday. Also, Jon Rahm looks a potential 5 match candidate and given some European rookie performances in recent Ryder Cups he looks a value bet to me.
Donaldson and Dubuisson amassed 5.5pts in 2015 whilst Pieters and Bello combined for 6.5pts last time out so there is no evidence to suggest these talented first timers can't get the job done. Rahm has so many potential partners and in any format will be a monster to beat. Spaniards have a love affair with the Ryder Cup and it looks set to continue with Rahmbo.
Finally I'll have a bet on Dechambeau being top American. Bryson recovered impressively last week at East Lake to salvage some pride after a disastrous start. His jaunt to Germany earlier in the year should have prepared him for the similar climate that awaits him in Paris.
I do feel his game is very suited to this track given his tendency to play well on courses that require precision play and good par 4 scoring. Him and Tiger look set to play with one another and if they win their opening game it will be hard to leave them out of the other session. However, surely Tiger can't play all four games before the singles and risk tightness in the back so Bryson could slot in alongside Simpson for a foursomes game either afternoon.
I see plenty of options for the young American and given his fiery personality could prove to be a vital member for this team this year and for the next couple of renewals. I'll be back with another short preview of some of the other extra markets available later.