Home advantage in the Ryder Cup counts but not for the reasons you’d expect

In the age of professional sport, where every stat is scrutinised, the subject of 'home advantage' is one of the key criteria in pre-match analysis.

If we look at the cold hard maths, there is little doubt that playing at home increases your chance of winning. For example, an assessment over the past 3 years show teams in the NBA win on average 10.11% more games when played at home, and the NFL it is 6.4%.  Soccer in the UK is even more dramatic, the home team wins around 60% of the time in the English Football Leagues.

The key question still unanswered is - why? Is it familiarity, less travel, home support? All good reasons that have been traditionally touted. However in this world of global transfers, luxury travel and identikit stadiums these explanations hold less truth.

The fan’s influence has very much been overstated in the past and a lot of research has cast doubt of any real significance. Fans easy jumble up cause and effect, and assume that their team only started playing well once they started cheering, rather than that they started cheering only once their team started playing well. What they forget are the countless times when the noise fizzled out because the game fizzled out.

What researchers are now saying is that home advantage has shown a strong correlation to testosterone levels, the hormone that boosts aggression, motivation and competitiveness – tested before players even get on the pitch. The players' testosterone levels were at the male average before training and away matches. But they were 40 per cent higher just before a home match against a moderate rival and 67 per cent higher before a bitter rival game. The effect is a subconscious and primitive territorial protection of their patch.

This makes particularly good sense for the Ryder Cup. For example, Gleneagles isn’t really ‘home’ for any of the European golfers so familiarity, less travel, home support don't play a part.  Yet the Ryder Cup still shows that home advantage is a dominant stat.  Since the competition took on its current form in 1979, The Ryder Cup has been played 8 times in the USA and 8 times in Europe (Pre Medinah). The Europeans have, won 6 times in Europe, whilst the Americans have won 5 times in the US. Consequently out of the 16 tournaments 11 have been won by the home side - nearly 70%. 

From this we can deduce that Europe should have the advantage. Time will tell but one thing is for sure, testosterone levels will run high – just maybe slightly higher for the Europeans.

See what else is going on. Watch this video on The VPAR Championship -

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