What do the key statistical trends tell us about who will lift the Solheim Cup?
Gleneagles plays host to the 16th edition of the Solheim Cup starting tomorrow and the USA team are out to win the tournament for the third consecutive time, a feat they have achieved twice before.
Team Europe’s captain Catriona Matthew takes on the role for the first time and she will hope her more experienced line-up can take advantage of home conditions to regain the trophy for the first time since 2013.
As anticipation rises ahead of the first tee, what are some of the statistical trends that stand out and how can they be used to predict the outcome of what promises to be a fascinating three days of golf?
Winners tend to dominate by big margins
Since the first Solheim Cup in 1990, it is fair to say that the USA have dominated with their 10 victories, double that of Team Europe.
There is often an assumption in tournaments like this, that the margins are always close and it is only a few moments on which the whole weekend can hinge. But this is hardly ever the case.
Only on three occasions has the margin of victory for a team been less than three points of the 28 up for grabs. Two of those occasions have been this decade, in 2011 and 2015 respectively. The Solheim Cup four years ago in Germany was one of the greatest in history, as the USA won by just one point.
When Europe last won in Colorado, they did so by a huge margin of eight points. Compare this to the men’s Ryder Cup, and the difference could not be more stark.
Over the past 15 Ryder Cups, six editions saw a team win by a difference of one point and in 1989, it was only the second time in history that the tournament ended in a draw.
While there will be hope of an exciting three-day contest in Scotland, do not be surprised if one team ends up winning by a considerable margin on Sunday.
Which team does best at what time?
In 2002, the Solheim Cup’s format was changed to replicate that of the Ryder Cup. That meant a morning and afternoon session of either foursomes or four-balls on the first two days, and 12 singles matches to finish on Sunday.
When looking at session breakdowns over the past 17 years, some interesting trends come to light, as the chart below suggests.
The first morning of a Solheim Cup must be an incredibly exciting time for the players, but also a time filled with nerves. Team Europe has historically performed better on the first morning than their US counterparts.
But team USA seems to enjoy being under the cosh and under immense pressure, as their improved performances in the afternoon session on day one show.
The second day sees a more fluctuating day with no particularly dominant side, even if since 2002, team Europe has won 21 points in the afternoon session on day two, compared to just 15 for team USA.
Where the real difference may lie though is the clutch play team USA seem to show in singles matches on the final day. They have won 55.5 points on the final day since 2002 and in the nine Solheim Cups since then, they have won six times, compared to only three for Europe.
Team Europe’s experience may not count for a lot
Coming into this week, team USA’s captain Juli Inkster has had to fend off questions about her inexperienced line-up playing away from home conditions.
Six golfers on the 12-player squad for the USA are playing in their first Solheim Cup and only Lexi Thompson, Lizette Salas and Morgan Pressel have played against Europe - in Europe.
Looking at this, people may think this is Europe’s perfect opportunity to regain the cup but looking closer at their experience in the Solheim Cup, there may be some scar tissue that needs to be repaired.
Team Europe has an experience across its roster of 122 matches and while their record is in the positive with 59 wins, they have also suffered 48 losses. Team USA only has experience of 51 matches, with 24 wins and 17 losses respectively.
When analysing players’ records at their most recent Solheim Cup appearance, Europe’s players have 12 wins collectively, but an alarming 21 losses. For the US, their players’ most recent experience has seen 12 wins together, and just seven losses.
There is a fine line with experience. There is no substitute for it, especially in moments when the pressure is really on. But, sometimes experience of losing can weigh heavily on the mind and the belief you have within yourself is tested.
It is impossible to make a prediction for the weekend, but all factors considered, team USA may be on to make golfing history.