If you’ve watched it before, you’ll probably be tuning in again. If you haven’t, or you think golf is just for dads, give us five minutes to change your mind
WHAT IS IT?
The Ryder Cup is USA vs Europe, with 12 players – plus a non-playing captain who is usually a legend of the game. And this year’s starts on 30 September in Hazeltine, USA.
WHAT DO THEY PLAY?
There are four foursomes and four fourballs on each of the first two days. In both the foursomes and fourballs, teams play in pairs. In foursomes, players on the same team play alternate shots with the one ball. In four-balls, each player plays their own ball. On the final day, everyone plays a one-on-one match against an opponent.
HOW DO YOU WIN?
It’s matchplay golf – a point is available on each hole for bettering your opponent. Beat them, and you ‘win’ that hole, so the aim is essentially to win more of the 18 holes than you lose.
Win a match over the 18 holes, and it’s a point for your team. Draw, and it’s half a point each. As there are eight foursomes, eight fourballs and 12 singles matches, the first team to reach 14½ points win the Ryder Cup. If it ends 14-14, the current holders (Europe) retain the trophy.
Right, now that’s out of the way… why is it so good?
WHAT’S SO UNIQUE?
Golf is normally player vs course; birdies, eagles, pars, bogeys: 20+ hours of golf per player over a weekend. A traditional golf tournament can get boring, but the Ryder Cup is a rare chance to see a unique format, and it’s ace. Foursomes (alternate shots) always offers up scintillating play (and goes quickly), while fourball allows the big hitters to have a serious crack, and gamble much more often. Sunday singles, as the scorecard fills up and players realise what’s on the line, never fails to build incredible tension. Add a quick turnaround between rounds – afternoon matches often tee off before the morning has finished – and it makes for three days of epic golf.
WHO’S GOING TO WIN?
No idea. Europe has dominated in recent years, winning six of the last seven, but USA look strong. They’re led by Davis Love III, who by all rights should have won at Medinah in 2012 before one of sport’s great collapses [they were 10-6 up going into the Sunday, and lost 14½-13½]. They have a special Task Force helping the team, and with four wildcards, they don’t have to rely on some PGA no-marks to make up the team.
Oh, and four of the world’s top seven are Americans, compared to just two Europeans.
The needle between players is great, too – the team ethos kicks in, and there is serious competition, leading to many a fallout over ball placements, shot orders and general inter-team banter. There’s even singing!
SO IT'S A LAUGH? SURELY THE PLAYERS DON'T CARE?
First tee duff shots are a regular, as some players admit to feeling more nervous than at majors, and the crowd are pumped. Also, unlike normal comps where you only really see the leaders (plus everything Rory McIlroy does!), you get to see every shot that every player hits, even if someone isn’t pulling their weight – so it’s fun for amateurs to realise even the pros aren’t infallible. The pressure affects people in different ways – Ian Poulter has never got close to winning a major but turns into a superman in this format. Yet even Tiger Woods, at the peak of powers, could never quite do it for USA in the Ryder Cup.
Unlike the Olympics, the players are well up for this – mosquitoes don’t travel to the US, apparently. That means nine of the top 11 will be in attendance and earnings
go to charity. Want to see the best in the world, playing for pals and country rather than money? You’ve come to the right place.