Ryder Cup: 5 reasons why everyone loves golf's greatest show

By Sports Desk September 22, 2021

From the Miracle at Medinah to the Battle of Brookline and the War on the Shore at Kiawah Island, there is something uniquely special about the Ryder Cup on American soil.

The hoopla and the hollering, the fanfare and the ferocity. At times it felt like the cries of "U-S-A, U-S-A" were interrupted only at Hazeltine five years ago by the "I believe that we will win" chant, a nadir for the sporting songbook.

Let's go round again, then, this time at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, where the show gets under way on Friday, three days of sporting theatre set to play out in front of a global audience.

Postponed from last year, there will be crowds lining the course in a full-blown face-off between the United States and Europe, led off by the foursomes and fourballs before Sunday's singles provide a tantalising climax.

It is hard not to love the Ryder Cup, whether a year-round golf fan or not, and here are five reasons we have taken it to our hearts.


1. THE AGGRO

Team golf changes the sport from top to bottom. This individual pursuit, the every-man-for-himself nature of tour golf, goes out of the window as players compete for the collective good. Players streamed in and out of news conferences on Tuesday, each declaring their commitment to fight for their locker-room chums. Many of the world's elite have assembled this week, but there will be no champion golfer, only a team triumph come Sunday evening.

Golf crowds might irritate players at times during the regular season, but by and large they are a respectful bunch. Yet at the Ryder Cup, frenzies break out as team allegiances change the perspective of spectators. The partisanship reflects that of a football game, boorishness breaks out and is frowned on, and then it breaks out again, and again, until it is part of the fabric of a Ryder Cup weekend. Telling a Ryder Cup crowd to dial down the aggro and the noise would likely only serve to ramp it up. The crowd feels a part of the event, players can be inspired and some will cower, and of course this happens on each side of the Atlantic. Don't expect anything different this weekend, besides the fact the crowd will be overwhelmingly American, given travel limitations.

"I think that the Ryder Cup epitomises everything that's great in the game of golf," Europe's Rory McIlroy said this week. "It's competitive, but there's also a lot of sportsmanship shown. And obviously there's partisan crowds and all of that, but that's part of being in a team environment. You're going to have a majority of the crowd rooting for one team or the other.

"I think the most animated I've been in my career has been at Ryder Cups. It just brings something out of you that you don't get playing individually. There's something more there when you're playing as part of a team, and everything you do doesn't just affect yourself but affects the other 11 players, the captain, the vice captains, all the support team."


2. THERE'S A STAR MAN

Although this is a team game, somebody has to be the hero. Three years ago, Italian Francesco Molinari won all five of his matches, the first European to ever do so, and in previous editions there have been unforeseen defining performances from the likes of Boo Weekley and Christy O'Connor Jnr.

There was a certain romance about the all-Spanish partnership between Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, master and apprentice, who won 12 points from their 15 matches together, and latterly their compatriot Sergio Garcia has gone on to amass the most points in a Ryder Cup career: 25.5 and counting.

The beauty is that the star man rarely happens to be the leading man. Tiger Woods, now a 15-time major champion, was 0-4 at the last Ryder Cup and has won just 13 of his 37 matches in the event.

This is a competition where Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter at least match, and arguably outrank Jack Nicklaus, despite neither European having a major to their name.


3. TENSION OFF THE COURSE

Nick Faldo was a wonderful Ryder Cup player but flopped as a captain at Valhalla in 2008, delivering a string of pairing puzzlers and a clanging confection of press-room and team-room missteps. Three years later, Graeme McDowell said: "What was missing for us? We didn't have that extra spark in the team room, didn't have that X-factor in terms of someone to get up and rally the troops. Jose Maria [Olazabal] gave a great speech on the Saturday evening when the singles line-up came out. But that was the first really emotional speech we'd had all week."

Captains know victory is everything, and their selection calls can define Ryder Cups as much as the players on the course perform. Find the right combinations and a captain can sit back and reap the benefits.

Few expect Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau to partner each other at this Ryder Cup, amid a spat most assume is ongoing. DeChambeau looked to calm the chatter about his relationship with Koepka on Tuesday, saying much of the talk had been "driven by a lot of external factors, not necessarily us two".

"We had some great conversations in Tour Championship week when we had dinner, and then this week, as well," DeChambeau said. "I sat down and had dinner with him last night, and it was fine."

Steve Stricker, you suspect, would be wise to keep them apart in competition, but eliminating any sense of rivalry or enmity within a team can go a long way towards bringing success.


4. THE KITS CAN BE BAD

This year's outfits have a touch of class about them, understated elegance on both teams, which is always disappointing.

The Ryder Cup has delivered some shockers over the years, with a prime example being the USA's waterproofs that let in water during the 2010 match at Celtic Manor, forcing team chiefs to splash out on more reliable kit from on-site merch suppliers. Already garish, with large-lettered player names on the back of the shellsuit-like jackets, they were also considered not fit for purpose by several players as the rain came down in Wales.

In 1999, the USA committed a fashion faux pas with a shirt that featured scores of framed photographs of Ryder Cups gone by. It belonged on the bargain rails, but turned out to be the outfit in which the Americans sealed their win at Brookline, the images of their triumph enshrined in folklore, but surely never to feature on the shirts of any future cup team.

Europe have typically been more demure about their outfit selections, perhaps wary of being frowned on in the clubhouse or by history.


5. THE COMEBACKS

This is a sporting contest par excellence, and Europe's 17.5-10.5 annihilation of Tiger Woods and co three years ago in France means the hosts are craving delicious revenge.

USA wildcard Jordan Spieth is likely to be a major factor, given his strong season, and the three-time major winner describes the feeling of competing as like being in the thick of a title chase at a major championship.

"Maybe it takes two or three years if you're playing really well to have four or five times you're in contention in a major, but you get to do it three, four, five times this week," Spieth said.

On the final day, that sense is amplified, and a team's overnight lead is far from any guarantee of success. At Medinah in 2012, the US team led 10-4 at one stage on the Saturday, before Europe won the final two matches to narrow the gap, Poulter pulling out all the stops with a string of birdies as he and McIlroy took down Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner.

Still, Europe were up against it going into Sunday, but Justin Rose provided a highlight amid a rush of blue on the scoreboard as he scored a stunning win over Phil Mickelson in the singles, with the likes of Lee Westwood and Garcia also coming good before Martin Kaymer ensured Europe would retain the trophy and Molinari halved his clash with Woods to win the cup outfight by a 14.5-13.5 margin.

The USA roared back from 10-6 at Brookline to also win 14.5 to 13.5, with near riotous scenes at the end as players and spectators overstepped the mark by invading the green, interrupting Olazabal's mission to keep Europe in it.

Whether Whistling Straits sees a comparable comeback, one team waltzing away to win, or a close-fought battle, remains to be seen. Samuel Ryder's notion, back in the 1920s, that a team golf event between teams from either side of the Atlantic should make for a sporting spectacle, has proven to be one of sports great prophecies.

Related items

  • Julen Lopetegui: Once the butt of all jokes, now aiming to be Real Madrid's biggest threat Julen Lopetegui: Once the butt of all jokes, now aiming to be Real Madrid's biggest threat

    Julen Lopetegui has come a long way. Very little highlights that more than the fact he has been mentioned as a potential long-term successor to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United.

    While such a move probably won't occur, with Mauricio Pochettino seemingly the likeliest to walk through the door at Old Trafford at the end of the season, the speculation is at least a vindication of the work Lopetegui has done at Sevilla over the past two and a half years.

    Of course, it wasn't long before his hiring by Sevilla that Lopetegui seemed to be the butt of all jokes in Spanish football, with the situation surrounding his Spain departure attracting criticism before he was swiftly shown the exit by Real Madrid.

    But he is a coach who really has put in the hard graft, having quickly lost his first ever job in management before then opting to refine his skills in youth coaching, steadily working his way up to prominence.

    His football may not be universally popular, but Lopetegui has restored his reputation in an emphatic way.

    Julen's gambit

    Lopetegui saw the writing was on the wall.

    "I know the culture of the club. I am identified with [the club] and with its fans. I am not surprised by a dismissal because football depends on results and we are not achieving them," he said.

    While you'd think that might sound like what Lopetegui would have said after getting dismissed by Madrid, it was actually a frank response to being ditched by Rayo Vallecano back in 2003.

    Rayo, whom Lopetegui finished his playing career with, were in the second tier and won just one of their first 10 league matches under their new, inexperienced coach. They went on to suffer a second successive relegation.

    Although getting sacked wasn't a surprise for Lopetegui, it seemed to shock him into something of a rethink – he returned to his first professional club as a player, Real Madrid, in 2006 as their head of international scouting, and two years later he was in charge of the 'B' team, Castilla.

    That was the first of several roles focused on youth coaching, which would see him looking after Spain's Under-19s, Under-20s and Under-21s over the following six years. Two seasons with Porto reintroduced him to senior club football, before Spain came calling again.

    This time it wasn't an age-group role, it was the real deal. Lopetegui took over from Vicente del Bosque in 2016 and set about establishing a new dynasty for La Roja.

    It was a largely positive two years. Ahead of the World Cup, he had presided over 20 matches for Spain, winning 14 of them and losing none.

    That made him the Spain coach to have overseen the most games without losing, while his 70 per cent winning record is second only to Del Bosque (76 per cent) among those to preside over at least 15 games.

    Goals weren't hard to come by either. Sure, World Cup qualification in Europe can bring about some lopsided results that boost averages, but still, Spain's 3.1 goals per game under Lopetegui remains the best of any Spain coach (min. 15 matches).

    However, his decision to enter a post-World Cup agreement with Real Madrid, which was announced just a few days before Spain's campaign was due to begin, did not go down well with the Royal Spanish Football Federation. He was sacked and Fernando Hierro was brought in at short notice to preside over an ultimately disappointing Russia 2018.

    Many criticised Lopetegui; some understood why he'd accepted the Madrid opportunity, others suspected it to be a poisoned chalice.

    Predictable Perez

    Given what he said after being sacked by Rayo some 15 years earlier, why Lopetegui saw Florentino Perez as the patient type was mystifying.

    "Real Madrid is still alive. This is still October, we have done some good things, made a lot of chances, and we will try and improve and be more effective. We are ready to play a game of this size and these demands," he said prior to what proved to be his final match in charge.

    After the game, that appraisal turned to: "I feel sad, but I want to remain in charge. It's a big blow, but I'm strong enough to know everything can be turned around. I have a lot of faith in this group of players."

    Only, Lopetegui wasn't given the chance to turn it around, as we all know, for a 5-1 demolition by Barcelona in El Clasico brought an abrupt end to his brief 14-match stint at the helm. In football terms, there was surely no greater humiliation for a Madrid coach.

    It was only the third time this century Madrid have conceded five times to Barca in LaLiga, and it meant Los Blancos had lost three league games on the bounce – again, this has only happened on two other occasions since January 2000.

    Of course, there's lots to be said for why Lopetegui failed at Madrid. For one, his first-choice full-backs Dani Carvajal and Marcelo were in and out of the team, and such positions carry great importance for Lopetegui.

    Additionally, let's not forget this was a Madrid very much in transition after the departure – and failed replacement – of Cristiano Ronaldo. It was seemingly expected that Karim Benzema would instantly pick up Ronaldo's slack, despite only passing 20 league goals in two of his previous nine LaLiga seasons. The Portugal star never went below 25 in his nine campaigns in Spain.

    While Benzema did ultimately score 21 times in the league, only four of those (one via the penalty spot) – split across two games – came during Lopetegui's 10 games. Decisiveness in the final third was a real issue for the team, demonstrated by the fact they failed to beat Levante despite having 34 shots and set a new club record of 481 minutes without a league goal.

    But Zinedine Zidane, Lopetegui's predecessor, saw this coming. As he bade farewell to the club alongside Perez just 15 days after winning a third successive Champions League title, the Frenchman spoke persistently about "change" and openly acknowledged he thought "it would be difficult to keep winning if I stayed".

    Whether that was down to insufficient investment in the first team, the likelihood of retaining such high standards in the Champions League or a combination of both is unclear, but it would seem his successor was always on a hiding to nothing.

    From rock-bottom to redemption

    Lopetegui left Madrid with the second-worst win percentage (42.9 per cent) across all competitions in the club's history (min. two games), better only than Amancio (40.9).

    But his record and impact at Sevilla couldn't realistically be much more of a contrast. Over his first 100 matches in charge in Nervion in all competitions, Lopetegui's 59 wins were a joint-record for the club.

    It's almost fitting that his 100th career LaLiga match as a coach will come against his former team this weekend – it would be an even sweeter occasion were he to mastermind his first ever victory over Madrid, as success for Sevilla on Sunday will move them above Los Blancos and potentially put them top.

    LaLiga is shaping up to be the closest it's been in years. Whether that's down to a dip in quality across Spain's top flight or not is a debate for another time, but Sevilla certainly looked well-placed to mount a challenge for the title having ultimately fallen just short in the final weeks of 2020-21.

    At the very least, they are surely on track to finish in the top four in three successive seasons for only the second time since the Spanish Civil War, and it's this kind of consistency that's undoubtedly caught the attention of Man United, whom he defeated en route to 2019-20 Europa League success.

    There are reasons to suggest he could be the sort of 'system coach' United need, as well. He's turned Sevilla into a side who dominate the ball, with their 64.4 per cent average possession for the season second only to Barcelona (65.8), while only the Catalans and Madrid have attempted and completed more passes.

    But where many teams who like to dominate possession tend to press high, Sevilla do much more of their pressing in the middle third of the pitch – working with a striker like Ronaldo, who's engaged in just 113 pressures in the Premier League this season, ranking 30th at his position, may not be such an issue.

    For example, Sevilla's 61 high turnovers are 10 fewer than any other LaLiga team this season, yet they have allowed opponents to have just four build-ups (sequences of 10 or more passes) that resulted in a shot or touch in the box. The next best record here is 10 (Barca and Villarreal).

    This theoretically then gives Sevilla the chance to showcase their strength in picking through a counter-press, which is demonstrated by their 73 high turnovers against being the third-lowest in the division – none have led to a goal.

    After getting by on individual quality and a helping of nostalgia for nearly three years, United need a coach who has proven he can mould a team to his philosophy – Sevilla may not be the most exhilarating team to watch, but they are effective and Lopetegui got results very quickly.

    Certainly, Lopetegui ending up at Old Trafford any time soon isn't likely, but if Sevilla continue to churn out results in LaLiga and make themselves a genuine silverware rival to Los Blancos and Atletico Madrid, it's only a matter of time before Europe's biggest clubs come poking around. 

    Where Lopetegui once saw Madrid as his greatest opportunity, he hopefully now just sees them as a mere obstacle in his quest for a crowning achievement: winning Sevilla their first title since the 1940s.

  • 'I just wanted to spank you' – Koepka takes down rival DeChambeau in The Match 'I just wanted to spank you' – Koepka takes down rival DeChambeau in The Match

    Brooks Koepka earned bragging rights in his feud with Bryson DeChambeau after besting his PGA Tour foe in the latest edition of 'The Match'.

    Koepka and DeChambeau have been at loggerheads on the PGA Tour, tensions high since 2019 when the former called out the latter for slow play.

    DeChambeau responded by taking aim at fellow American Koepka's physique in 2020.

    The pair came together to help the United States to a record-setting Ryder Cup triumph over Europe in September, but they renewed their rivalry in Las Vegas on Friday.

    In a 12-hole exhibition showdown at Wynn Golf Club, four-time major champion Koepka celebrated a 4 and 3 victory in the match for charity.

    "Not going to lie, I just wanted to spank you," Koepka told 2020 U.S. Open winner DeChambeau upon clinching victory on the ninth hole.

    "I haven't played in two months," DeChambeau told TNT. "No excuses, though. I should have done better."

    Mid-match, DeChambeau asked Koepka rhetorically: "Where is this on the PGA Tour? You're playing so good right now".

    "It's kind of like my major right now, right?" Koepka replied.

    Afterwards, Koepka said: "Obviously, watching him up close and personal is pretty neat, pretty special to watch him hit the ball.

    "Like I said, there is respect there, but at the same time it was fun to come out here and settle this." 

    DeChambeau added: "I've always had respect for Brooks. He's won four major championships and what he's done for the game.

    "At the end of the day it was 12 holes and he got me. So, hopefully, there will be a rematch sometime soon." 

  • Joburg Open golf stars abandon European Tour event amid COVID travel concerns Joburg Open golf stars abandon European Tour event amid COVID travel concerns

    Sixteen golfers from the United Kingdom and Ireland withdrew from the Joburg Open on Friday as strict new rules affecting travellers from South Africa came into effect.

    The emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in South Africa has led the UK government to implement a sudden change to its rules for arrivals, taking effect from midday on Friday.

    It has declared that British nationals arriving before Sunday morning after a stay in South Africa – as well as Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia – must self-isolate at home for 10 days and take two PCR tests in that time.

    All such travellers arriving in England from 04:00 GMT on Sunday will be required to go into a hotel quarantine facility for 10 days.

    Flights to the UK from the newly red-listed countries were being suspended.

    It was no coincidence that the European Tour event in Johannesburg saw a rash of withdrawals, with players looking to get home.

    Those who pulled out were England's Steven Brown, Oliver Fisher, Matt Ford, David Howell, Matthew Jordan, Richard McEvoy, Graeme Storm and Andrew Wilson, Scotland's Craig Howie, Liam Johnston and Richie Ramsay, Wales' Oliver Farr, Northern Ireland's Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin and Ireland's Paul Dunne and Niall Kearney.

    Johnston posted on Twitter a version of a poster for the Meryl Streep film Out Of Africa, with his face superimposed in place of Robert Redford's. Sharvin replied: "Too good."

    UK health secretary Sajid Javid said of the new measures: "We are taking precautionary action to protect public health and the progress of our vaccine rollout at a critical moment as we enter winter, and we are monitoring the situation closely."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.