There are things about the game that only a golfer understands, and the all-out dogfight over the Ryder Cup is one of those things. For the glory of country and honor, two teams face off. For one week, no love is lost between them, even among dear friends. It is a tooth-and-nail, dragged-through-the-mud saloon fight. Your 2018 Ryder Cup tickets put you in the heat of the battle, and your cheers and roars will most certainly affect the outcome.
From Friday and Saturday four-balls and foursomes to Sunday singles, every point is bitterly contested. Host countries have the advantage, as visiting players rarely catch a break from the raucous crowds. The battle for the Ryder Cup, now in U.S. hands, continues in 2018 at Le Golf National near Paris. The Americans will be outnumbered, but not outgunned. The cheers will be louder; the jeers will be lower. This is one bucket-list item you won’t want to miss.
The international battle of golf that is the Ryder Cup got its start innocently enough. In 1921, 11 Americans got a free ride from Golf Illustrated magazine and the U.S. PGA to travel to the U.K. for the British Open. Until that time, no American had won the British Open. In the weeks before the big tournament, the visiting U.S. players and a team of British players met at Gleneagles Resort in Scotland for an impromptu team contest, which England won. The contest was rekindled in 1926 at Wentworth, and again the British won, but all that was at stake was bragging rights.
Fatefully, a wealthy English businessman, Samuel Ryder, was at Wentworth to witness the spectacle. Ryder, who had made his fortune as inventor and purveyor of penny seed packets, was smitten by the contest. Over drinks following England’s victory, he told the players, “We must do this again.” He soon commissioned a small, gold trophy to be retained by the victors, the same one still fought over today.
The battle for the Ryder Cup began in 1927 at Worcester Country Club in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the U.S. won 9 ½ – 2 ½. There was difficulty in playing the contest again in 1928, so the decision was made that the contest would be biannual, which it has been ever since. Winning the Ryder Cup quickly became a tradition for the Americans, as they won 18 of the first 22 Ryder Cup contests. Great Britain and Ireland took home the cup only three times in those early years, and there was one infamous draw.
Though the tournament originally rested on sportsmanship, and was considered a friendly exhibition, the competition could be fierce when the heat was on. As a Ryder Cup rookie, Jack Nicklaus erred on the side of sportsmanship when, at Gleneagles in 1969, he conceded a missable three-foot putt to Britain’s Tony Jacklin that gave Jacklin the match and forced the first draw in the contest’s history. There was furor on his team, but Nicklaus’ gesture was revered around the world. American Captain Sam Snead was none too amused. Nicklaus’ gesture wasn’t entirely altruistic, though, as the U.S. held the cup at the start of the matches, and a draw meant it would remain in U.S. hands.
The first continental Europeans to play in the Ryder Cup were Spain’s Seve Ballesteros and Antonio Garrido in 1979. The inclusion of the Europeans leveled the playing field, but the U.S. still dominated the competition. Things remained civil for the most part until a snarky 1989 Ryder Cup at The Belfry in England. American Paul Azinger and Ballesteros each had fiery personalities, so a match between the two was bound to get out of hand. When they began questioning each other on rules, the Ryder Cup got personal.
The following Ryder Cup, in 1991 at Kiawah Island in South Carolina, saw nationalistic pride take over, and the Ryder Cup was to be a grudge match from that point on. Nowhere are crowds more friendly to their compatriots; nowhere are they more hostile to their foes. Players face pressures they never experience in normal play, even the majors. They are playing, not just for themselves, but for a whole continent or nation.
The three days of the Ryder Cup are an emotional roller coaster. No outcome is certain until the math says it is, as Team Europe proved in snatching the Ryder Cup from America’s fingers at the 2012 Meltdown at Medinah. Europe retained the Cup in 2014 at Gleneagles in Scotland, the original site of the Ryder Cup, but the U.S. took it back in 2016 at Hazeltine.
In 2018, the battle for the Ryder Cup resumes at Paris’ Le Golf International. The crowds will be electric as Europe looks to take back the cup, but a new generation of U.S. players will be clenching it tightly. The roars of the crowds will shake the earth, as they always do at the Ryder Cup, and the tensions will be high from the start of Friday four-ball to the clinching match of Sunday singles. Take it all in, and be there to support the outnumbered Americans as they take on hostile crowds and impassioned foes on foreign soil. The air will be combustible, the golf will be electrifying, and only one team will walk away smiling at the 2018 Ryder Cup.