GET INTO GOLF: Golf’s elite play for country, pride at Ryder Cup |

GET INTO GOLF: Golf’s elite play for country, pride at 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 Great Britain (In 1979, the team was expanded to include continental 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 country until the next event is played.

Samuel Ryder, a successful entrepreneur, supported the early 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. Jim Furyk, winner of 18 PGA Tour events (including a US Open) and player on nine Ryder Cup teams, is captain of the United States team. Thomas Bjorn, winner of 15 European Tour events and winning record as a player in three Ryder Cup matches, is captain of the European team.

Each side may choose their team. For the United States, eight of the twelve 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 granary. Four players are then chosen by the captain.

This year’s European team has 10 players that qualify 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.

Albatros Course at Le Golf National in Guyancourt, France, is the site of the 2018 Ryder Cup. If you’re curious about the name “Albatros,” this is the historical reference to a golf played three under par (score of 2 on par 5 hole).

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are in the mix as captain’s picks and play will be televised over the weekend on NBC and Golf Channel or you can view the coverage online through Due to time differences, live coverage is broadcast overnight, with a daytime replay to follow.

John Renslow is a PGA Professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides Golf Instruction at local courses.

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