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Course Spotlight: Which secret skill will help the United States keep the Ryder Cup?

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Course Spotlight: Which secret skill will help the United States keep the Ryder Cup?

    Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga

    The rhetoric around the Ryder Cup is endless. Rather than read another straightforward course preview, let’s take a detailed look past the common perspective and use a professional eye to see where the true betting edge lies in Rome.

    Marco Simone Golf & Country Club is a match play masterpiece: 14 holes of risk/reward tee shots combined with a unique collection of par 3s. The par-71 scorecard measures 7,181 yards. A short test by modern PGA TOUR standards, tournament officials made the course even shorter than the overall distance used for the DP World Tour’s DS Automobiles Italian Open. In doing so, they have created a layout that will require many decisions when designing a successful strategy for match play.

    There are a couple of holes that do catch my attention. As a coach, I would be looking at scoring techniques. A majority of the Ryder Cup is team golf. Playing with a partner calls for an aggressive approach. Six holes stand out and will require some extra attention. Marco Simone is set up with three reachable par 4s and three par 5s. Hole Nos. 5, 11 and 16 are par 4s measuring under 330 yards. Nos. 9, 12 and 18 are the par 5s. All six fall in the final 14 holes.

    These two teams are very evenly matched from a ball-striking standpoint. The Europeans have a statistical edge on the greens, but the Americans are favored around the greens. The collective U.S. short game stands out. Many holes aren’t won in match play from off the green, but scoring from close range will be very important on these six holes. Each will require an approach from over 225 yards on the par 5s and an accurate drive from over 300 yards on the par 4s.

    Those approaches will come to rest just off the green more often than on. You have 33 percent of the holes where a player's short game will ultimately influence sub-par scoring. Compound the skill differential by the type of grass Marco Simone has around their green complexes. They use a paspalum blend and keep it incredibly tight. Each of these matches will be anxiously close. A small pitch, or delicate chip, could be the deciding factor.

    The magnitude of this skill only gets amplified when you play Foursomes. Team depth with wedge acumen introduces more pressure. Consider each hole as well: The par-4 fifth and 11th holes leave you a safe landing area right of the green. That paspalum tightly mown landing zone will be where the competitors play from. Who will hit it closer from there? The par 5s all have greens surrounded, both short and long, by pitching areas. Uneven lies and bunkers will create great opportunities for famous Ryder Cup hole-outs. They could also lead to several embarrassing moments as well under the weight of match play.

    These two teams are unbelievably close in skill and mental fortitude. Finding an edge is almost impossible. Six holes throughout 28 matches equate to a Ryder Cup-winning opportunity. I believe scoring from short range will decide the rumble in Rome. Therefore, I’m taking the United States (+110) to retain the Ryder Cup: because when it gets close, they come out on top!

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    Keith Stewart is a five-time award winning PGA Professional who covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Founder of Read The Line, he is also published by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Follow Keith Stewart on Twitter.

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