In 1978, if you had queried golf enthusiasts about their opinion of the rivalry of the 38th Ryder Cup, the chances are you would have gotten shrugged shoulders, nonchalant expressions and not much excitement. If they could see then what the Ryder Cup is today, there would be a lot of dropped jaws. The 38th Ryder Cup is the third largest sporting event in the world, one of the biggest rivalries in sports globally.
Today’s golf hounds know that the very strong European team has a very good chance of taking back the championship they were dethroned of at Valhalla, Kentucky in 2008. The Europeans have not lost the Ryder Cup since 1993 at home and are game to keep their record in place along the banks of the River Usk.
The Europeans not only have home advantage but also a stronger team with their golfers winning or ranking highest in recent championships. The past decade has witnessed the build up of micro individual golfer rivalries and macro national dueling clashes. The venue will be held at Celtic Manor (a 5 star golf resort) in the city of Newport in South Wales October 1-3 will see the event on the new “20-Ten” course which was the first ever course construction designed for the biennial match.
This years Ryder Cup has all the makings of all a Hollywood Blockbuster: suspense, sex, infidelities, intense rivalries, mystery, excitement, conflict, high emotions, and questioned decisions. The European Captain Colin Montgomerie and Team US Captian Corey Pavin have penned their teams, the top 9 Europeans and top 8 Americans, with the captains appointing the remaining 7.
Montgomerie and Pavin must not necessarily search for the best players of the year but the players that have played best recently. The noted presence of Tiger Woods and obvious absence of Paul Casey adds to the excitement and sparring of the choices that the captains have made. The outcome will leave much conjecture as to whether the Pavin and Montgomerie’s decision making was wise or not.
The Twenty Ten course will demand the players respect in their short game, the immense power of the Americans will be mitigated if they cannot produce on the Celtic Manor greens. The Americans and Euros are not deficient of great players with excellent short games, but the victory will be in the hands of the golfers whose short game and putting is spot on.
The ire of the teams have produced competitive wrangling and spectator heckling. The sparring, scrapping, heated debates, and rivalries of the past will spurn the teams on to take possession of the 38th Ryder Cup. Past antagonisms such as Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger, Sam Torrance and Mark James, the dark moments in 1999 when the incensed vice-captain Sam Torrance’s vitriol was shared with the media near the banks of the Charles which had just claimed the defeat of the Mark James led Euro team. This was just half of the ticket for the American brotherhood’s revenge, who had been beaten up by a decade of European victories.
Remember 1991 at the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island when Pavin and Pate donned camouflaged forage caps whose antics backslid into an American insipid frenzy when Berhhard Langer blew the definitive putt in his match with Hale Irwin in the closing moments. And then there was Paul Azinger in 2008 who told the fans to cheer on the foibles of the opposing Europeans. At least Woods will not endure the fury that Montgomerie did over a decade ago; yet the ghosts of yester years will be stirring in the hearts and souls of the eighteen holers.
Europe has won five of the last six meetings which turned the tide in what was once an American dominated competition. The K Club’s home advantage provided the Europeans their first three consecutive wins in 83 year Ryder Cup history. American courses have demonstrated unrestrained passion from their fans while alternatively the Europeans understand the need for restraint and decorum, though evident and muffled.
The Ryder Cup now sits at the pinnacle of one of the world’s most exciting events and highest viewer rankings which continue to increase, up 22% in its last competition in Vallhalla, Kentucky. And yes, they say payback is difficult, yet it is the evolution of the game supplemented with electrifying young players that make this American-European rivalry crescendo as do the number of times this biennial event has been played. It is a micro version of the Olympics, one of the only other global events where the game, the competition, the challenge is foremost. The players leave with no money, only victory or a taste of revenge that must wait two years to be satiated.