It’s incredibly difficult to come up with an estimation of what factor paying a lot and little have because of all the changing factors. So, I toyed with some numbers and came up with some values for each.
Based on what I did yesterday a player in his second round of the day is about .1 stroke worse per round. For the fourth and fifth sessions it turns into around .3. There also appeared to be a disadvantage to playing four matches in a Ryder Cup. If that was the case I added .1 to a players score for singles. Finally there seems to be a disadvantage to not playing a lot too. If a player waited until singles for his debut I added .3*, and .1 if singles was only his second match.
*The only three players to do this were Coltart, Van de Velde and Sandelin in 99. They all lost on Sunday though they faced Tiger, Mickelson and Davis Love, so they were definitely big underdogs in that match.
The data is so hard to get accurate, but it makes sense that players who play one round a day, which they basically do at every other tournament, fare the best comparatively. It will be interesting to see what the books come out with for odds based on how much people have played to see where these guesses are.
This makes the US strategy alarmingly boring. Quite Frankly, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Stewart Cink and Jeff Overton are just not in the same class as the other eight. As I alluded to earlier, there are a few American players that would make it interesting and play once a day and really have eight guys rolling into Sunday.
You could have a POD! system where Stricker, Woods, Mickelson and Furyk play all 5, because any penalty they take for playing a lot still leaves them above most players, then rotate in a group of DJ, ZJ, Kim, Mahan, O’Hair, Watney, Kuchar and Steve Marino each playing one match per day and have a pretty powerful Sunday team.
Instead, the US is basically in a situation where, they have to ride their strongest horses and play with everyone either tired by Saturday afternoon or not having played at all.
So, it’s simple for the US:
First Four Sessions:
Europe is much more intersting. They have a lot more interchangeable parts.
First, I added .5 strokes per round to Westwood’s average. He certainly won’t be dead this week, but he won’t be at the peak of his form. Guys that are “injured” are definitely underrated, but they aren’t at full strength, either.
There top eight players are:
Considering those listed above would be playing a second match of the day, Peter Hanson moves into the top-8 and Ross Fisher is so close that he is probably worth playing. For the third session run those top-8 out again.
Now with the bigger penalty that playing the third match has shown, It gets a little more interesting. Fisher and Hanson definitely get thrown into the mix in place of Westwood and Molinari who would be playing their fourth match each.
Poulter would be sitting on the last spot about a tenth of a stroke better than Edoardo Molinari. So, the choice are Poulter playing three matches in three days or Edoardo Molinari, slightly worse on Saturday, but having less of a penalty on Sunday for already getting on the course. As it turns out, using the bonus system I set out above the euros are about a tenth of a shot better overall if they use Molinari once and save Poulter. I like Miguel Angel Jimenez as much as the next guy, but he is certainly the odd man out on this team.
Euro’s best strategy is as follows:
Miguel Angel Jimenez
In comparison, the Euros are only about .15 strokes worse than average on Sunday if they go for this plan, while the Americans are a full .3.
Of course there is a 0% chance that this strategy gets used be either captain. For one, Mark James in 1999 pretty much executed the American strategy I outlined and rode his 7 best horses hard for 3 days and didn’t let Van de Velde, Jarmo Sandelin or Andrew Coltart out of their cages until Sunday. This was literally a perfect strategy and it paid off, as his weaker squad had a lead on the road over an American team of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love and David Duval in his prime.
On Sunday, even though his pairning lined up perfectly as his sacrificial lambs matched up against the American’s best players. This meant the Euro’s needed only to get four points out of nine matches with a much more even playing field and a slight chance that their weaker players could get something. Of course, on that Sunday nothing went right for the Europeans and that strategy was banished to become a punch line of awful strategy.
The other thing is, this strategy will maximize points over 1000 or more rounds. Obviously that still makes it the best for one Ryder Cup, but there is a ton of variance for one single match. Rickie Fowler is without a doubt the worst player on the US team, but given the right circumstances there could be a one-in-five chance he sweeps two matches.
I did this kind of quickly last night, if anyone thinks they can make a better team given the same parameters feel free to try it in the comments. There is a good chance I overlooked something.