Ryder Cup 2012: Is Playing at Home Really a Huge Advantage for Team USA?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 26, 2012

The U.S. Ryder Cup team appears confident prior to it competition with Europe's top golfers.
The U.S. Ryder Cup team appears confident prior to it competition with Europe's top golfers.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Playing the Ryder Cup at home could turn out to be a huge advantage for the U.S.

However, it hasn't worked out that way in recent Ryder Cup competitions.

Yes, the U.S. won the last time the Ryder Cup was held on American soil—in 2008 at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville—but the Europeans have had the better of this event for nearly three decades.

Europe has won 9-of-13 Ryder Cups dating back to 1985. In more recent years, the Europeans have won four of the last five.

While the Americans have done better at home than they have across the Atlantic, it's not like they have anything resembling a home-course advantage. The Europeans are 3-3 in the last six Ryder Cups played in the United States.

Once the matches get underway, the competition will feel more like a big-time college football game than a golf tournament.

At most tournaments, crowds conduct themselves in a rather genteel manner, cheering excellent shots and offering polite applause on less-than-stellar swings.

But the Ryder Cup is not like most tournaments. It is not about an individual winning and holding off a rival in the final round.

This is about team competition with the good, old U.S. of A. facing the interlopers from lordly Europe.

The crowds at the Ryder Cup are not so genteel. They often root hard for the home team. Especially when the competition is in the United States. That should be the case this weekend at the Medinah Country Club in suburban Chicago.

American crowds love to cut loose. You get an inkling of that at nearly every tournament when some leather-lunged lout shouts "you're the man" as soon as Tiger Woods unleashes his drive. It doesn't matter if Woods' shot is long, short, straight or crooked; he's still the man.

Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk may also get a similar reaction on tour.

Some other golfers hear that kind of support, but it's usually because some beer-drinking buffoon wants to be heard.

The Ryder Cup is another story. Fans root for their team. They may have nothing against Rory McIlroy and the Europeans, but the European golfers are like the Yankees to Red Sox fans in this competition. There will be cheers for the good guys and hoots and hollers for the "bad guys."

But wearing the black hats has not really bothered the Europeans in the past. Certainly they were impacted in the famous U.S. victory in 1999 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. (source: Golf.com). In that Ryder Cup, the U.S. rallied on the final day of the event to record a 14 1/2-13 1/2 victory. The supportive and appreciative crowd seemed to play a key role in that comeback.

For the most part, the U.S. crowds tend to draw the Europeans together and push each other on. They have enjoyed that role and they have not usually crumbled when American fans root against them.

Also, the Europeans are not under anywhere near as much pressure as the U.S. golfers. They are expected to win at home and to turn this competition around.

A poor start will only increase that pressure.

So, the U.S. team is all smiles and excited to begin playing at Medinah. Past defeats don't seem to matter. They are ready and will have the home course advantage.

At least until the first match is played.

Then, the pressure will go up dramatically, and a home-course advantage could turn out to have the opposite impact.