Date: September 24, 2014

The unique nature of the Ryder Cup

" />You know that it’s Ryder Cup week when Rickie Fowler turns up at Gleneagles with a GI haircut and ‘USA’ carved into the side of it, which a British newspaper columnist calls “thuggish jingoism’’.

And Sir Alex Ferguson, the football legend, turns up to give a motivational speech to the European team.

The Ryder Cup is possibly the biggest thing in golf, albeit that it includes players from distinct parts of the world and excludes others. Greg Norman and the Zimbabwean Nick Price spent some years arguing that it was unfair that they had no similar theatre in which to play, which led to the creation of the Presidents Cup, which has been successful if not as popular.

Technically, the Ryder Cup ought not attract much Australian attention, yet it does, moreso over the years. It means so much to the players, and the history is so rich. The competition is white hot, and tends to spill over into ugliness at times.

For a week, golf puts away a few of its traditions, players fist pump and high-five like footballers, and a guy like Fowler gets away with having his country burned into his hair. It’s all a bit different, which might be part of the attraction.

The Ryder Cup was first played in 1927 between the USA and Great Britain, which later became Great Britain and Ireland. In 1979 Jack Nicklaus’ suggestion that the British team be broadened to Europe was taken up, after the United States had won 10 of the previous 11 contests, and a new era was heralded.

In more recent years Europe has dominated, winning seven of the past nine contests, and the event has surged in popularity on both sides of the Atlantic. While there have been serious etiquette breaches and misbehaviour, such as the American team charging on to the putting surface after Justin Leonard’s long putt against Jose Maria Olazabal at Brookline in 1999, they have also served to add spice to the Ryder Cup.

The fact that genial, classy Tom Watson is captain of the American team this year will help matters stay within the bounds of decency. “There’s a line that you shouldn’t cross,” Watson said today. “The game is a traditional one – the solitude and quietness that you enjoy when you play the game fills you up. But in the Ryder Cup, there is not a lot of serenity. There is tension, there is pressure.’’

Europe’s win in the last Cup, at Medinah in 2012, is referred to as the Miracle of Medinah, and has gone into the annals of sporting history. Trailing 10-6 going into the final day, the Europeans conjured 8 ½ points in the singles matches to win, with Martin Kaymer sinking the clinching putt. One of those triumphant was Ian Poulter, the Englishman who has built a perfect record in Ryder Cup, the type of competitor who thrives in the combative atmosphere.

Europe is the overwhelming favourite this year, with four of the world’s top 10 on its team. The inability of the injured Tiger Woods to play for the United States also has led observers to tip another European win, along with Phil Mickelson’s moderate form.

The players acknowledge that this week is different. For instance Watson recalled having a missed putt cheered for the first time in his life in 1979, at the Ryder Cup. “This is what you expect from the nature of the Ryder Cup. It is where I want to be,’’ he said.




Foursomes and four-ball on Friday and Saturday, all matchplay. Twelve singles matches on Sunday. First team to 14.5 points wins the Ryder Cup.




Rory McIlroy

Sergio Garcia

Henrik Stenson

Victor Dubuisson

Jamie Donaldson

Lee Westwood

Ian Poulter

Justin Rose

Martin Kaymer

Graeme McDowell

Stephen Gallacher

Thomas Bjorn

Paul McGinley (captain)



Phil Mickelson

Rickie Fowler

Keegan Bradley

Jim Furyk

Matt Kuchar

Zach Johnson

Hunter Mahan

Patrick Reed

Webb Simpson

Jordan Spieth

Jimmy Walker

Bubba Watson

Tom Watson (captain)




Fox Sports, from Friday