The Ryder Cup: What makes golf’s most savage enmity so special?

The 41st Ryder Cup tees of next month at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. The biennial brawl  between the greats from US and Europe is contemplated as conceivably the biggest event in the golfing calendar.

The Ryder Cup is one of those last sporting events founded on prestige rather than prize money. The Ryder Cup  marks the end of the golfing season of that particular year.

So where does it come from, how does it work and what makes it so special?

The outset of the RYDER CUP.

George Duncan (right), captain of the British Ryder Cup team, is presented with the Ryder Cup by British businessman Samuel Ryder at the 1929 Matches. (Getty Images)

George Duncan (right), captain of the British Ryder Cup team, is presented with the Ryder Cup by British businessman Samuel Ryder at the 1929 Matches. (Getty Images)

Prior to the Open championship 1921, a tournament was played among the United States and Great Britain which was won by the Great Britain. Five years later in 1926 a similar event played in Wentworth, was again won by the Great Britain. This was the time when Samuel Ryder, a golf-mad businessman, noticed the golfers from the two countries resulting in the birth of the Ryder cup.

The 1st official Ryder cup was held in 1927 at the Worcester Country Club in Worcester, Massachusetts and thereafter it is held every two years, alternating the venue between Europe and the United States.

The American Dominance and the inclusion of the Continental Europe:

June 1937: From left to right, Densmore Shute, Byron Nelson, Horton Smith and Edward Dudley, members of the American golf team at the 1937 Ryder Cup. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

June 1937: From left to right, Densmore Shute, Byron Nelson, Horton Smith and Edward Dudley, members of the American golf team at the 1937 Ryder Cup. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

The Great Britain won the Ryder cup only three times out of the 22, played between 1927 and 1977. Thus, the golfers from America dominated the Ryder cup in between these five decades. Such American dominance brought the idea of including the golfers from the other parts of Europe to up the level of competition.

The great Jack Nicklaus initiated the process of inclusion of golfers from continental Europe. This was the time when young and talented golfers like Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer improved the level of competition, but Europe still had to wait until 1985 to beat the US for the first time since 1957.

Team Selection and Format of the Ryder Cup:

There are 12 players in each team. Nine qualify automatically through their ranking, and three are ‘wildcards’ chosen by the Captain of the respective team.

A total of 28 matches are played, each carries one point to the winners. The first two days see fourball and foursome matches and the final day sees 12 singles matches as Europe and the US go head to head.

Fourball matches involve four players, two from each side, and the player with the lowest score wins the hole for his team.

Foursomes are more like doubles, with two players from each team taking it in turns to take a shot. The final day sees 12 singles matches as Europe and the US go head to head.

Samuel Ryder and the trophy:

American business man and founder of The Ryder Cup Samuel Ryder (centre) with American team captain Walter Hagen (left) and British team captain George Duncan at a dinner function to launch The 1929 Ryder Cup at Moortown, Yorksh.

American business man and founder of The Ryder Cup Samuel Ryder (centre) with American team captain Walter Hagen (left) and British team captain George Duncan at a dinner function to launch The 1929 Ryder Cup at Moortown, Yorksh.

Samuel Ryder, a Brit, an avid golfer, and a successful businessman, commissioned a trophy in 1926 to serve as the prize in a proposed goodwill competition pitting British professional golfers against their American counterparts.

Ryder spent £250 to have the trophy created. It was designed by the Mappin & Webb Company in the form of a golden chalice, with the small figure of a golfer on top of the lid.

The Ryder cup trophy.

The Ryder cup trophy.

The Ryder Cup trophy is:

  • 17 inches in height;
  • Nine inches in width (handle to handle);
  • Four pounds in weight;
  • The cup sits atop a wooden base, around which is a gold band. On the band are engraved the scores of each Ryder Cup played.

The little guy on the top of the trophy is modelled on British professional Abe Mitchell, Samuel Ryder’s friend and golf instructor.

Why does it mean so much?

The Ryder Cup’s significance lies in the fact that this cup is one of the few that pitches the dominant US against an overseas opponent. The single man game of golf turns into a team game in the Ryder Cup which makes it more special. The match-play scoring system pits the players against each other rather than the courses, the controversies thus follow, the TV companies also cash in the drama.

The Ryder cup was always dominated by the Americans but Europe have won the last two cups by a single point and of the last 13 tournaments, ten have been decided by two points or less.

The history, the drama and the grudges make the Europe vs USA golfing showdown unmissable.

The 2016 Ryder Cup is scheduled to be held next month in the United States from September 30 to October 2, 2016, at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. Europe enters the competition as the cup holders, having won in 2014 in Scotland for their third consecutive win.

 

 

 

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