Professional athletes receive a certain amount of criticism due to the commercialization of their game. It’s not really their fault. Would you turn down a few million dollars to throw, kick, or catch a ball?
Every arena, course, and park has signage like wallpaper, until every corner is covered. We see flashing lights in stadiums, guys and girls with corporate logos where their clothes used to be, and buildings named after the highest bidder.
But, as we recently introduced, this week in professional golf it’s all for pride. This week it is the Ryder Cup.
Every two years, the best players from the United States take on the best players from Europe in a team match. Since 1927, the best players from Great Britain have challenged the best players from the United States in a team match.
The winning team earned a trophy that is kept at their home club until the next event is played. As the game grew in the US, the greater number players to draw from created an American dominance. So, in 1979, team across the pond expanded to include continental Europe.
The type of play is a departure from what you will normally see in a televised event. Match Play is the format of the day. Rather than a total score against a field, the individual players, or teams of two players, compete against another individual or team of two.
Beginning on the first tee, the Match is tracked hole by hole. The lower score wins the hole and the match continues until an individual (or team) has won more holes than the number of holes that remain to be played. By winning a Match, the individual or team earns a point for their team. A Match that ends in a tie is “halved,” and each team earns half a point.
In fact, they use a now rarely enjoyed “foursome” type of play. In addition to “fourball” in which each golfer plays their own ball, this format only has two balls in play.
The word foursome is often misused to describe four players in the same group. However, according to the Rules of Golf, a foursome is a style of play in which teams of two play only one ball. Each player hits their shot in sequence. Player A hits, then you find the ball and Player B hits. After finding B’s shot, Player A hits, and so on.
This is a great, classic type of play. Yet, it is not used often. One reason is that you only hit every other shot, but the other is likely due to its stress on relationships. Undoubtedly, you will hit a shot that will put your partner either in a bunker, some really tall rough, or behind a tree. Husbands and wives should not use this format. When home clubs choose this format for couples, it is often referred to as the “Divorce Tournament.”
Through a series of individual or “singles” matches and team matches, a total of 28 points are available. Once either side has amassed more than half of the available points (14 ½), Samuel Ryder’s Cup is theirs.
It’s a different, fun format to watch. And, what makes it even more cool is … you won’t see corporate logos everywhere. Nothing on the players. Nothing on their golf bags. Just matching apparel for everyone.
Any guesses on the prize money? How much does the winning team receive? There is no cash purse. Despite being one of the world’s most significant sporting events, players don’t receive prize money at the Ryder Cup.
It’s a week they could be doing almost anything they want to do, anywhere they want to do it. But, these guys wouldn’t be anywhere else. It’s an opportunity to be part of something bigger than yourself and part of an elite team.
Team Europe has won four of the last five matches and currently has possession of the Cup. Friday morning, Team USA got to work and had a 3 – 1 lead in early matches. Today, the team matches continue and tomorrow each player participates in singles matches.
In a time when other sports have players holding out for more money, the boys may earn something more valuable, if they can keep the Cup on American soil.
John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses