So, do you fancy walking in zig-zags around a field, often searching for a tiny white ball (which is usually hiding mischievously under a solitary leaf, making it almost impossible to spot)?
Well, then you’d love golf, a sport so difficult to play that it can sometimes lead to rage, even more so because of the amount of money you’ll spend to look “the part”.
I guess if you can look like a pro, you can play like a pro, right?
(Of course, then your first ever shot may just send the ball trickling inches off the tee, leaving it a good 30 yards behind the golf club you lost grip of on the swing. You look at the ball, and the club, and you scratch your head.
“How could I be so bad?” you think.
I mean, you look “the part” after all.)
Thankfully, the pros are a little better, and this week will see some of the best in the world go head to head in what is the best team tournament in golf: The Ryder Cup.
When getting set for this tournament, the first thing that was decided were who the captains and vice captains would be. The U.S. captain is chosen by the Professional Golf Association (PGA) of America. They went with Jim Furyk. He then, in turn, picked a team of vice-captains to aid him. Furyk is an interesting choice, as he is the joint record holder with Phil Mickelson for the most defeats in matches at the Ryder Cup (at a hefty 20).
Jim Furyk’s opposite number* was chosen by the European Tour’s Tournament Committee, and they went for the equally experienced Dane, Thomas Bjorn.
Both the captains then went on to choose five vice-captains to help them. Basically, they chose their mates. It is important to remember, though, that neither of the captains, or their vice-captains, are able to compete.
So what do they actually do?
Before we get to that, it is important to understand who the players actually playing are and how they are chosen for the team, and what the format of the tournament is.
Let’s start with the American team.
- The first eight players are the top eight from the World Points List;
- The captain picks the remaining four players
And for the European team:
- Four of the players are the top four in the European Points List;
- The next four are leaders from the World Points List;
- And the captain picks the remaining four players.
As for the format:
The Ryder Cup is played over three days and follows match-play rules. So, the lowest number of shots taken wins that hole, and the team gets a point. If the competing players hit the same number of shots, then the point is halved and they continue until someone wins, or the match is tied.
Days 1 and 2 will be played on Friday, September 28th and Saturday, September 29th. Both days follow identical schedules, with four games of four-ball, and four of foursome matches. (Not the kind of foursome you might be thinking of, so take your mind out of the gutter …)
In four-ball: Each player plays their own ball, and the lowest score is taken. So, for example, if the American team players score 4 and 5, their overall score is 4.
In foursomes: Each pair plays the same ball by taking alternate shots. One player tees off on all of the odd-numbered holes, and the other on the even-numbered ones.
Day 3 will be played on Sunday, September 30th, and consists of all 12 players playing head-to-head matches against a single player from the opposition side.
The first team to 14.5 points wins. If they are tied at 14 apiece, then the reigning champions – the U.S. – will retain the trophy.
This is where the captains come in. As you’ve seen, they make the initial four picks, decide on the pairings and on who should tee off on which holes. They then follow their players, giving them continuous advice along the way. Now, this latter role is probably a little silly, as the players competing are often better golfers than the captains. In this matter, you can think of the captain as the broke uncle who keeps trying to give you advice on how to save money.
By this point, I’m sure you’re extremely excited for the competition. I also realize the next sentence may force you to frantically search for the red cross in the top corner, but I’m willing to take the risk.
It’s time now to see how the teams compare.
Nice, you’re still with me!
Everywhere you look, the American team has an advantage. They have the best player in the world in Dustin Johnson, and their lowest ranked golfer is Phil Mickelson, who has won many tournaments throughout an illustrious career. He is ranked 25, which is already better than four of the European players.
In terms of team quality: Advantage, America.
What about the rookies?
America has three (Justin Thomas, Bryson Dechambeau and Tony Finau), whereas Europe is giving a debut to five players (Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen, Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood). So, not only will Europe have more rookies, but the American rookies, on paper, are much better.
Advantage, America. Again.
Come the end of their careers, most golfers are judged on their success in major tournaments, and there are four of them (US Masters, The Open, The US Open and The PGA Championship). Unfortunately, Europe fall a little short here, too. American team have won a combined 31 majors spread amongst nine players, albeit Tiger Woods won 14 of them. Whereas Europe has 8, split between 5 players. Hmmmm, not looking great.
Advantage America, yet again.
So, does Europe actually stand a chance? Well, the American team always seems to struggle outside of the U.S., and despite coming here with the better team and as reigning champions, there is a sense the Europeans may be able to win on home soil again. In fact, the last time the American team was victorious on foreign soil dates as far back as 1993.
It is also important to know that the venue is Le Golf National in Paris, France, which I’m sure we are all familiar with. (Hold on, I’ll go check Google images, just in case.)
This is a huge advantage for the Europeans, as 11 of the 12 players have finished in the Top Ten of a tournament held here, with two of them winning. In contrast, only three Americans have even competed here, and two of them never made the cut.
To further add to Europe’s claims, they have won three out of the last four Ryder Cups, despite being huge underdogs in a couple of them. A lot will depend on whether or not the home fans will be vociferous enough to upset the American players and give Europe the advantage that they need. (This is something the American fans always provide whenever the tournament is played across the pond.) Obviously it will be up to the players to provide the fireworks to get the crowd cheering early. That’s something Boo Weekley, (yes, it is a stupid name), did in a not-so-subtle way in 2008.
Thankfully, none of us will ever have to see that again, especially in slow-mo!
Anyway, Advantage Europe!
So who will win?
Despite the U.S. coming over as reigning champions and boasting players who are in-form, I would still have to go with the European team. This is partly due to defiance, as it seems even the European media have written off the home side. More so, I say this because recent history points towards a possible “under-par” performance from the Americans, who are being captained by a player who never really managed to “cut it” at the Ryder Cup. Couple that up with past performances of the Europeans at this course, and it goes a “fair-way” to arguing Europe’s case.
(I won’t lie, I was just reminded by my partner that I first said the Americans were going to win, but after seeing that Boo Weekley video again, I changed my mind.)
Come on Europe! Get in the hole! … No, not like that you dirty #@$$%#@&.
* “Opposite number” is one of those Britishisms, meaning the same as counterpart, or simply opposite. So in this case, the captain for the opposing team.