Ryder Cup 2014: Preview & player stats

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Europe go into this week's Ryder Cup as favourites as they look to win for the eighth time out of ten on home soil.

In fact it's been 21 years team since the U.S. side have won in Europe. Add to that the fact that Europe boast world number one Rory McIlroy in their ranks and the U.S. side are without one of the best players in the history of the game, Tiger Woods, surely it will be a comfortable victory for Paul McGinley's team.

But if you look into the battle deeper, you will see reasons to believe that the U.S. Can cause an upset at Gleneagles.

Whatever the outcome, fans will be hoping that the excitement levels rivals the previous two Ryder Cups.

In 2010 Europe dug deep at a rainy Celtic Manor when an inexperienced American team pushed them all the way. While two years ago saw Europe miraculously comeback from 10-4 down to perform the 'Miracle at Medinah' and complete one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history.

Narrow margins

The last two Ryder Cups epitomise how close the margin usually is between the two teams with five of the previous 11 matches being decided by just one point with the battle before that being tied. Also, two of those 11 were won by two point margins.

There are many different factors to take into account when discussing the Ryder Cup. Firstly, the match-play format requires a different mentality from players and isn't always easy to adapt to from regular tournament golf.

Match-play records

A brief look at the record from all 24 players during match-play, which includes Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, Seve Trophy, WGC-Accenture Match Play, Eurasia Cup and Volvo World Match Play, makes for interesting reading.

Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell lead the way for Europe with winning percentages of 68% and 67% respectively. Debutant Victor Dubuisson has a 66% strike rate after his nine match-play games.

At the other end of the scale, Scotland's Stephen Gallacher has only won three out of his 15 match-play battles, while Thomas Bjorn only has a 39% winning rate.

Looking at team USA's winning percentages and Europe has reason to be fearful of their strength during match-play format.

Not a single American has a winning percentage less than 50%, although Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Keegan Bradley, Patrick Reed and Jimmy Walker all winning exactly the same matches during match-play as they've lost.

America's top performers are Matt Kuchar, who has won 24 and lost 11 during match-play, and Hunter Mahan, who has won 31 and lost 16.

It must be considered though that the good record held by most of the American side can be put down to slightly easier matches at the Presidents Cup or Accenture Match Play.

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Ryder Cup records

Another interesting factor to consider is the Ryder Cup records held by the players. Nothing compares to the event in the sport of golf and having experienced players that have won Ryder Cup matches in previous years is imperative.

Unsurprisingly, Ian Poulter leads the way for the percentage of wins in previous Ryder Cups. The Englishman was inspirational during the Medinah comeback two years ago and has won an impressive 80% of matches in the event. Trailing Poulter for Europe is Justin Rose, who also played a key role two years ago, with a 67% win rate. The only European that has below a 50% record in Sweden's Henrik Stenson who has only won 43% of his matches in the Ryder Cup.

Keegan Bradley has easily the best Ryder Cup record in the American side having a wi percentage of 75%. Zach Johnson is the second most successful at the event but has only managed to win 59% of his matches.

Worryingly for the US there are four players that have won less than half of their Ryder Cup matches with Phil Mickelson, who will be making his tenth Ryder Cup appearance, only winning 45% of them. Masters champion Bubba Watson has a win percentage of 38%, Jim Furyk 37% with Rickie Fowler holding a win rate of just 33%.

Looking at Ryder Cup records, Europe will be hoping Poulter can rekindle his form from the previous two triumphs and produce the goods at Gleneagles this week.

Now that we've looked at the stats let's find the trends in previous competitions that could point the way towards who will triumph this weekend.

World rankings

Firstly, in the previous five Ryder Cups in team with the lowest (best) average world ranking has won on each occasion. Despite being underdogs, this year US boast the best average world ranking and will be hoping they can extend that stat to six.

Another reason why America might feel they can cause an upset is the course. Gleneagles is a Jack Nicklaus design and the size and layout has an American feel to it. Although it's on European soil, will the US side feel at home on the course?

Also despite the excellent recent record Europe have in Ryder Cups, they have only won two sessions out of the last ten with America winning six.

Despite that fact you must consider the margins of victory as those two sessions won by Europe were emphatic.

Europe are undoubtedly favourites heading into this year's Ryder Cup but there are many factors pointing to an American win. They will be looking for revenge after what happened at Medinah and much has been made of their 'team spirit' and togetherness.

Whatever happens, it is sure to be another pulsating battle during one of the best sporting events on the calendar.

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