Back 9: It’s Ryder Cup WeekWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
I am so excited! Just like a youngster on Christmas Eve. The Ryder Cup begins competition on Friday from Celtic Manor Golf Club located in Newport, Wales. All the players are on site and the golf world is all abuzz over what the pairings will be for the first matches.
How the matches actually came about is somewhat of a mystery. Sylvanus Germain, the father of golf in Toledo, has been mentioned as proposing the idea of a golfing competition for prestige and not for money as early as 1921. The first matches were held in 1927 and pitted a team from the United States against a team from Great Britian and Ireland. Over time the matches became quite one sided with the U. S. teams dominating. Continental Europe was added to the mix for the European team in 1979 and since that time the matches have become the white knuckle, stomach churning, tightly contested event that has captured the world golf stage.
I am enamored by the performance of the professional golfers that qualify for the Ryder Cup teams. Every week on tour professional golfers play for themselves only. If they play poorly some week it only affects them individually. However, each man on the Ryder Cup team is playing for the other members of the team and for their country. Because there is only 4 matches being contested in each session the players are much more exposed. Every shot is examined, televised, dissected, and analyzed for the golfing masses. A player is under tremendous scrutiny. In a normal weekly tour event if a player is performing poorly he does not receive any airtime and is basically ignored by the golf media, unless your first name begins with Tiger or Phil. If you play poorly in the Ryder Cup everyone around the world knows it in real time. Players are not even compensated for their participation, a sum of money is donated to each of their charity of choice. These matches are for pride only.
This year’s teams are made up of a unique mixture of veterans and rookies. The U. S. team has five first time Ryder Cuppers; Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Jeff Overton, Matt Kuchar, and Rickie Fowler. They will play a large part in the eventual outcome. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, World Golf Ranked #1 and #2, are not playing up to their capabilities currently. They must play better or the American Team has no chance. Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk, and Stewart Cink round out the U. S. squad. It is always interesting to watch how the Captains choose the pairing for the matches. Long hitters with control players, veterans with rookies, what personalities mesh or collide, these are some of the factors that the Captains must take into consideration when making the pairings.
The European Team, Captained by Colin Montgomerie, is loaded. Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Luke Donald, Ross Fisher, Martin Kaymer, Peter Hanson, golfing wunderkind Rory McIlroy and the Molinari brothers, Eduardo and Francesco. McDowell won the 2010 U. S. Open at Pebble Beach and Martin Kaymer took the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
Friday and Saturday will feature fourball matches in the morning and foursomes in the afternoon. In fourball all four players will play their own ball and the team with the lowest score on a hole will win that hole. The match will continue through 18 holes until one team accumlates more holes than the other or the match will end in a tie with a 1/2 point being awarded to each side. Afternoon foursomes features alternate shot play. Foursomes are historically more difficult for the American Team. If the Americans can end the day on Friday tied or only 1 down to the Europeans and keep it close after Saturday’s team matches they may stand a chance to retain the cup and bring it back to the U. S. after Sunday’s singles matches.
Matt Kuchar has had an outstanding year on the U. S. Tour. This could be a career moment for him. He is a consistent player and has a ton of confidence going into the matches. On the other side, Rory McIlroy is a player to watch. His youth, aggressive style, and unfathomable talent always make him someone to watch.
This is the biggest stage in Golf. Watch how players react under the pressure, how the pairings are made and adjusted after each round of matches and who will excel when that huge spotlight shines on them.
It’s the Ryder Cup. It’s wonderful!