The 43rd Ryder Cup made a welcome return after a substantial hiatus at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin at the end of September. The competition sees the very best golfers from Europe and America compete on opposing teams every two years. With the original date postponed from 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition returned to America after Europe had defended their home competition in 2018 to maintain perfect on the continent since 1997.
With victory in France crowning Europe for the ninth time in 12 matches, their recent dominance threatened to impact USA’s stranglehold on the overall score card of 27 wins to 14. After a turbulent year saw high-profile golfers question their involvement in the Tokyo Olympics, the patriotism that accompanies the opportunity to play as part of a team in such an individual sport was too alluring and, for even some of the most high profile golfers in the world such as Rory McIlroy, too emotional.
The Format of the Ryder Cup
When facing their 8th defeat in the past 10 editions of the tournament, team USA turned to their youngest ever squad in the hope of returning to glory. Such an inspired decision ultimately resulted in the largest margin of victory since the modern format of the Ryder Cup was adopted as Europe were thrashed 19-9.
Each team consists of 12 players who compete in a series of matches and formats of golf. For team USA, the 6 highest point earners since 2019 at major Golf tournaments throughout the world are combined with the captains personal 6 picks. For team Europe, the 4 highest point earners on the European list are combined with the five leading players on the world list along with 3 captains picks.
These 24 men compete across 5 Match-Sessions in 3 days. Each of the first two days contains one four-match session of four-ball (each player playing their own ball) and one four-match session of foursomes (alternating shots with a teammate against an opposing pair). On the third and final day, 12 Singles matches take place, leaving a huge 12 points up for grabs. With the winning side being crowned as the first to win 14 and 1/2 out of the available 28 points, there is usually a significant amount of drama and pressure reserved for the individual matches.
The Stars of the Ryder Cup
As a result of the selection process, some of the biggest names in golf compete in front of a fervent and loyal home crowd that help to create a very unique atmosphere within the sport that can only be experienced once every two years at the Ryder Cup.
Naturally, such an excitable and passionate crowd provides a pressure that many golfers claim is unrivalled in the sport. This pressure translates from the heat of battle in the midst the competition to the media scrutiny of every shot and action. The pride and emotion of competing in the Ryder Cup can provide career-defining moments for golfers and those lucky enough to compete in multiple events, such as Colin Montgomerie who never lost a singles match, Phil Mickleson with the most Ryder Cup appearances at 12 and Arnold Palmer who has the best record among USA players in the history of the competition. can create a legacy within the sport that few can match.
For such a young USA team, competing at home and restoring pride amongst a recent period of European dominance saw immense pressure on the shoulders of captain Steve Stricker and star players Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth.
For Europe, Padraig Harrington and his team carried considerable experience into the contest, hoping it would be enough to retain the coveted trophy.
The 2021 Ryder Cup
At Whistling Straits, there was no shortage of drama, tension and talking points alongside some brilliant golf as Team USA capitalised on a dominant first day to cruise to victory over a shell-shocked Team Europe.
Famed for its stunning views and troublesome finishes, the course played true, with challenging greens proving a challenging obstacle for the Europeans to overcome. On the first day, USA raced to a 6-2 lead to leave the visitors with a difficult uphill battle on the Saturday.
The challenging circumstances never threatened to ease for the visitors as the vocal Wisconsin crowd took considerable pride in cheering every missed fairway and every stray approach from those not born on the continent. Despite a small rally in Saturday afternoon’s Fourballs, Europe entered the singles on the final day with a considerable mountain to climb as they faced an 11-5 deficit. Whilst it remained mathematically possible to retain the title, there was a forlorn look throughout the team as the USA secured 8 points from the 12 matches.
Despite some brave performances, including an emotional final effort from Rory McIlroy, the inevitable was confirmed when Collin Morikawa holed a 3-foot putt on the 17th to guarantee the winning margin and secure a dominant victory that never really came under threat from the Europeans.
The Impact of the Ryder Cup
In what has been a turbulent 18 months for professional sport, the lack of competition, especially those in front of a crowd, only magnified the sentiment behind the return of one of the sporting calendars’ biggest occasions. With a rise in viewing figures for the competition, the 2021 Ryder Cup has helped to put golf on the worlds’ biggest stage once more. With such a unique opportunity for individuals to play with a new format of the game and in a team environment, it provides a product which both players and fans adore.
Opportunities for other sports to adopt a similar method, such as Basketball 3X3, Rugby Sevens, Indoor Hockey and the various formats of professional Cricket provide an alternative prospect for fans and players to engage with and allow a unique spectacle for players to look forward to and train for throughout the year.
The Ryder Cup remains steeped in a rich history that can inspire any aspiring golfer. After an extended hiatus, the recent Ryder Cup has renewed a fervent passion in golf and sport fans alike, only adding to the expectations of the 2023 Ryder Cup in Italy.