Europe may have won six of the previous eight Ryder Cup tourneys and boast the world’s best golfer, Rory McIlroy, at the helm of a stacked squad, but the oddsmakers in Las Vegas are not the only wise guys backing Team USA to kiss the Cup on Sunday night.
Playing before what everyone expects will be a rowdy, partisan gathering at Chicago’s Medinah Country Club, the Americans should be able to take advantage of the home field and retrieve bragging rights they last earned in 2008, according to a member of the European 1991 Ryder Cup unit.
"I think you've got to give the edge to the Americans because it's on American soil," David Feherty, Northern Ireland-born professional golfer-turned funny man and U.S. citizen, said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday.
The money men agree with the host of Golf Channel’s "Feherty," who took his show on the road to Chicago Monday night for his second live edition starring Olympics hero Michael Phelps and NBA Hall of Famer/assistant U.S. Ryder Cup captain Michael Jordan. Bovada favors Tiger Woods and his mates (-140) to come out on top, with McIlroy and his talent-laden supporting cast listed as +120 underdogs when they take the field on Friday.
Still, with not one member of the U.S. team sporting a winning Ryder Cup record and eight of the other side’s 12 guys with positive outcomes, this week’s tilt promises to be a squeaker.
"This is as hard a Ryder Cup to pick as I can remember in recent years," Feherty said. "It really is sort of a pick 'em -- you've got [FedEx Cup winner Brandt] Snedeker, who's come into tremendous form, and it may well boil down to captain's picks and rookies and not so much the established players."
On paper, Feherty noted, the Americans -- who look "amazing" with stars like Snedeker, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson and Jason Duffner -- would appear to hold the winning hand.
"You know, I favor the Americans. The event ... was dominated by the Europeans for a decade or 15 years there for a while, but it seems like the equilibrium has come back, and I do think that the fact that it's on U.S. soil is the sort of it does give the Americans a slight edge," he said. "When you look at the strength of the two teams, I think there's a little more of an unknown factor on the European side. You know, we have more of an idea of who the American players are and how they're doing."
The thing is, he jokingly reminded listeners, is that the golfers -- who will tee it up against such heavy hitters as McIlroy, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, and the little-known Nicolas Colsaerts -- "play on grass."
So what's the bottom line for Feherty, who proudly pledged allegiance to his adopted country despite walking through Monday night’s audience in a suit split down the middle with U.S. and European colors? The brawn on both sides, he opined, made this week’s contest essentially a toss-up
"As far as I know," he said, "I’m not sure."
And you can take that to the bank.