August 29, 2012
One of the highlights of the golf calendar is the biennial Ryder Cup, played between teams representing the United States and Europe. The 2012 edition starts on September 28, 2012 with the team from the USA looking for revenge after losing in the 2010 edition. In fact, the team from Europe has been the most successful over recent years with six wins in the last eight tournaments.
The first Ryder Cup started following an exhibition match in 1926 with the first proper tournament between golfers from the USA and Great Britain taking place in 1927 at the Worcester Country Club, Massachusetts. These teams were fairly even at first, but in later years the USA started to dominate the event. This led to the British team expanding to include players from Ireland in 1971 and then mainland Europe in 1979.
The 9/11 attacks delayed the 2001 tournament until 2002. Since that time it has run every even year with the last tournament taking place at Celtic Manor in Wales. The winning team was from Europe, with Lee Westwood winning the deciding singles match at the end of the last day. The American team was victorious in the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville, Kentucky.
Every two years the venue for the tournament swaps between Europe and the USA, and this year the focus is on Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Illinois. The tournament will actually run on course #3 at this exclusive private country club, which has also been host to the US Open and PGA Championship.
This difficult course is 7,561 yards (6,914m), and in 2006 became the longest golf course in major championship history. It is a challenging course that means the players need to bring their top game to get the vital points on the board. The course features three waterfront holes that are par three to catch out unwary players. The overall par for the course is 72, with Lighthouse Harry hitting the lowest ever score of 63 in 1930.
The tournament consists of two teams of 12 golfers that play eight foursomes matches, eight fourball matches and 12 single matches over the course of the weekend. The winner of each match gets one point, with a half point to each team in the event of a tie. The first team to score over 14 points wins the tournament.
Each team has a captain who selects the players that will feature in each match in the first two rounds. The captain does not play in the tournament, but has the task of picking wild card picks to complete the team line-ups. Most of the players are selected according to their performance throughout the season according to the following criteria:
- Europe – Five leading players on European Points List, Five leading players on World Points list, and two captain’s wild card picks
- USA – Leading eight players on Ryder Cup Points List and four captain’s wild card picks.
The captains for the 2012 Ryder Cup are Jose Maria Olazabal for Europe and Davis Love is his counterpart for the USA. With them the teams are now starting to take shape in time for the start of the tournament. The captain’s will play no active part in the competition, but have the important role of putting together the pairs for the foursome and fourballs as well as selecting which player will play which singles round.
Olazabal has picked Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts as his wild cards.
The full team is:
- Luke Donald
- Sergio Garcia
- Peter Hanson
- Martin Kaymer
- Paul Lawrie
- Graeme McDowell
- Rory McIlroy
- Francesco Molinari
- Justin Rose
- Lee Westwood
- Ian Poulter
- Nicolas Colsaerts
The team actually represents six different European countries, namely Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden.
The final selection for Team USA is not complete yet, but the current top eight players are:
- Tiger Woods
- Bubba Watson
- Jason Dufner
- Keegan Bradley
- Webb Simpson
- Zach Johnson
- Matt Kuchar
- Phil Michelson.
Davis Love will not pick his selections until closer to the tournament.
Eight of the European team were part of the victorious team in 2010, with Lee Westwood scoring the winning points. The American team contains five of Team USA that also played in the last tournament, although that number may increase when the captain’s picks are named.
Unusually for a golf tournament with so many big names, the only prize in the Ryder Cup is team pride. None of the players win any money for playing, but the competition can be just as intense as the final round of any Major tournament. In fact, the final singles matches will feature some of the tensest golf this year when one mistake can make the difference between being on the winning or losing team.
This can lead to some intense behavior from the players and fans, with both sides complaining about some of the excitement shown by opposing players and fans alike. This is part and parcel of the Ryder Cup, so anyone watching should expect plenty of partisan home support and cheers for the American players.
Over the last few years, the American team has probably been the stronger of the two, but the European team often displays superior team spirit and all of the players up their game for the challenge. This year, the home advantage will work in favor of the American team, who should prove too strong for their European rivals but the home team could buckle in front of the fervent support.