GET INTO GOLF: For the best in the game, it doesn’t get any better than the Ryder Cup
The Ryder Cup. This is one of the NASCAR races, right? No? How ‘bout a bottomless java mug for the drivers of large, yellow moving trucks? Nope. This is much, much bigger. For the best in the game, it doesn’t get any better than this.
This is the international competition for golf’s elite. Since 1921, the best players from Europe 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. Samuel Ryder, a successful entrepreneur, supported the early Ryder Cup matches and purchased the perpetual trophy, a gold chalice that bears his name.
Every two years, 12 players from each side of the pond participate in a series of individual and team matches that will determine the winner and who keeps the cup. You already know about some famous rivalries; Yankees and Red Sox, Ali and Frazier, Evert and Navratilova, but this one goes back nearly 90 years and is passed from generation to generation.
In a day when many athletes of other sports won’t play until somebody extends their contract with some serious coin, those who yearn to participate in the Ryder Cup will receive no prize money. They play for pride. The emotions run deep, sometimes tempers flare, and victory is coveted.
Each team has a captain. Davis Love III, winner of 21 PGA Tour events and earned a spot as a player on six Ryder Cup teams, is captain of the United States team. Darren Clarke, winner of 14 European Tour events and winning record as a player in seven Ryder Cup matches, is captain of the Europe team.
Each side may choose their team. For the United States, eight of the 12 spots on the team are garnered over the course of the two-year period through their performance on Tour. A better finish in a tournament earns a player points and the more significant an event, the greater the point grab. Four players are then chosen by the captain.
This year’s European team has 10 players that qualified through a similar point system and three that are chosen by the captain.
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.
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 (14½), the Ryder Cup will become carry-on luggage for the plane ride home.
Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota, is the site of the 2016 Ryder Cup. According to a database of names, the essence of Hazeltine is “self-sufficient.” Yet, our boys will need to support each other in this gritty contest.
Play will be televised over the weekend on NBC and you can view the coverage online through RyderCup.com.
John Renslow is a PGA Class A Professional and Instructor at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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