The Hills Are Alive with the Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel NewsroomSeptember 13, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 Ryder CupTheres not much to the Ryder Cup ' the trophy itself. It stands 17 inches tall, is only nine inches from handle to handle, and weighs less than a bag of sugar.
 
Even when its gold finish is properly shined it still pales when compared to many of the garish prizes handed out to so many tournament winners around the world.
 
The Ryder Cup, however, is diminutive only in physical stature, ordinary only in outward appearance. Because no trophy, no matter what size, shape or color, no matter when, where or to whom it is awarded, means so much to so many.
 
When Europe clinched the cup in 2002, over 30,000 partisan patrons reveled in victory ' and that was just those in attendance at the Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, England. As the victorious side sipped champagne and beer in the press conference, soccer-style chants reverberated on the grounds.
 
No one wins the Ryder Cup. Nor is it just one winning team. It is a country who claims themselves triumphant. Or, more often than not over the past decade, an entire continent.
 
This year, as the two sides square off at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., it marks the 25th anniversary of when the continentals joined Great Britain & Ireland in their biennial battle with the United States. Prior to 1979, the U.S had won 10 consecutive Ryder Cup matches. And with the event taking place every two years, that meant a 20-year drought.
 
Not much changed soon after the alteration in format. The U.S. won handily, thanks to a Sunday surge, in 79, and dominated their counterparts by 9 points in 81.
 
Then the Ryder Cup became a true competition. The Europeans lost by a single point in 83, before finally winning back the cup in 85. Two years later, they claimed their first victory on American soil, beating the Jack Nicklaus-led squad at Nicklaus own Muirfield Village.
 
Overall, the U.S. leads the series 24-8-2. But over the last nine Matches, Europe holds the upper hand, 5-3-1.
 
And as the Americans enter the 35th Ryder Cup, the question has to be asked: Who is really the favorite?
 
Are we the underdogs? Phil Mickelson said. That's a good question. They bring out their best game in the event, and we have not in years past.
 
It might seem like a silly question, particularly given the fact that the U.S. features five major champions to Europes zero; that the U.S., at the moment, has five players ranked in the top 10 in the world, while Europe has one; that the U.S. is playing at home.
 
But the U.S. is just 2-2 in their last four home games. And their players are always of higher profile, with higher rankings ' and it hasnt stopped the Europeans from capturing the cup six of the last nine times.
 
Everybody always speculates as to why the Europeans fight above their weight, and why the Americans look like heavyweights and fight like featherweights,' U.S. captain Hal Sutton said.
 
They add up the world ranking, and when you look at the U.S. versus Europe, it's pretty lopsided, he said. But one great thing about the game of golf is that David beats Goliath sometimes.
 
It used to be that the Europeans were considered the underdogs because so few fans outside of the continent were familiar with their players. But now, as the game has grown exponentially, fans and the media are familiar with the likes of Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Thomas Levet and Paul Casey.
 
And such players have been playing increasingly more outside of the European Tour, expanding not only their profile, but their game as well.
 
We have far more depth on the European team now than we ever had before, said European captain Bernhard Langer.
 
The match-play competition will finally get underway Friday, with the two teams of 12 competing in four foursomes (alternate shot) matches and four four-ball (better-ball) matches. They will do the same Saturday, and will play 12 singles matches Sunday.
 
Each victory is worth one point, with a point going to each team when a match is tied after 18 holes.
 
It will take 14 points to win the Ryder Cup outright; though, the Europeans can retain possession with a 14-14 tie.
 
This will be the first time that Oakland Hills, which has hosted six U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships, has hosted a Ryder Cup.
 
The venue was dubbed The Monster by Ben Hogan in 1951. But, listed as a par 72, 7,105 yards, the course isnt the beast it once was. And Sutton believes it more suited for good iron play and good putting.
 
My impression of Oakland Hills is different than what my first impression was, Sutton said. My first impression of Oakland Hills was in 1985, and I thought it was absolutely the hardest venue that I had ever seen for a major championship, and one of the reasons why I thought it was is because it was one of the longer golf courses; at the time I thought so because the ball didn't go as far as it's going now. Secondly, the greens are so undulating.
 
Now that I've played it quite a few times, the length is not the factor that I thought it was. But you've still got to drive it in the fairway because you have got to put your irons below the hole. So I think accuracy and being a good iron player, and then obviously, you've got to be a good putter to close the deal. That's what I think is important at Oakland Hills.
 
Thats why he used his captains selections on Stewart Cink and Jay Haas, a pair of excellent putters.
 
One putt here, one putt there. It all adds up in the end. And every half-point matters when you consider that seven of the last eight Ryder Cups have been decided by two points or less.
 
And, of course, many of those putts have fallen in favor of the Europeans.
 
'The European team is always up to the challenge. They seem to play above their weight, Sutton said. But the Americans are going to be up to the challenge. We're going in there on a mission, and we're not going to settle for less.
 
Related Links:
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team

  • European Ryder Cup Team

  • Full Coverage - 35th Ryder Cup
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.