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Size matters! America v Europe: How they rate from the tee

by Josh Powell | September 24, 2012

By Josh Powell | Sports writer

The Paddy Power Blog can reveal that Team USA have a better chance of lifting the Ryder Cup for one very simple reason: they can drive the ball further than Europe.

According to the PGA stats from this season, up to and including the BMW tour championship:

    • The 12 American players drove the ball, on average, more than two feet further this season than Team Europe players
    • The average driving distance in yards for Team America was 293.4 compared to Europe’s 292.7 – which is 0.7 of a yard, or just over two feet.
    • That might not sound much but when you look into the stats and trends it makes a huge difference, especially when you take the huge-hitting paradise of Medinah into consideration.

Ryder Cup size matters infographic

From the average team stats collated from all this season’s PGA Tour events, you can see that the teams have similar accuracy off the tee (see graphic, click to enlarge).

      • But what those two feet extra in distance appear to give America is a better success rate hitting the green, resulting in getting closer to the hole when approaching and thus resulting in shooting a lower round overall.

Justin Rose and Lee Westwood may be the only two Ryder Cup players who hit the green with more than 70 percent of their approach shots but they are let down by the rest of team Europe, in particular Paul Lawrie who misses the target more than 40 percent of the time. The Americans are very consistent and each of them has an average success rate of between 63 to 69 percent on their approach.

This results in America being on average 10 inches closer to the hole each time on approaches. Suddenly that two foot has turned into a crucial 10 inches at a pivotal moment, turning a potential hole-winning par into a bogie.

On average American Steve Stricker is only 31 feet and six inches away from the pin on his approach, statistically the best this season, and he is surrounded by team-mates whose approach play reaps the benefits of their longer drives.

We’ve found Love in a hopeful place

It is no surprise then that the American team have a distinctly better round score on average throughout the season. As a team they average a shot less a round than Team Europe and if that’s the case in Chicago it won’t be good for Rory McIlroy and Co. Europe’s top golfer is one man who dips under the 70-shot-a-round mark along with Tiger Woods and Jason Dufner but the rest of the team have been far from reliable.

The long course at the Medinah County Club in Illinois will benefit the big hitters and that is one of the reasons American captain Davis Love III deliberately chose the venue. There is also very little rough off the fairway so consequently less pressure on a player’s driving accuracy and more focus on the distance they can get off the tee.

The course will play close to 7,700 yards and with Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley at his disposal the American team has a mind-blowing amount of fire-power.

“Medinah will be perfect for us. It’s a big ballpark. I love Dustin Johnson on that golf course and really our whole team there because we have a great driving team. You look right down the list and you can poke at any of the names and say: ‘Man, he is driving it great,” says Davis Love III.

In the last 10 years Europe have lifted the Ryder Cup four out of the five times they’ve faced the Americans but the stats are worryingly pointing towards a different outcome this time round. The way the course plays the team driving the ball furthest have a phenomenal advantage and will be in the ideal position when it comes to making the putt.

Unfortunately it’s advantage America.

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