Judy was kind enough to contribute a guest post to our Why I Love… series. In addition to following golf, she is a die-hard baseball fan from Cleveland who longs for the glory days of the 1990s. Judy also raises Clumber spaniels in her spare time and competes with them in agility trials. She was a breed columnist for the AKC Gazette magazine for many years. Thanks for the contribution, and excellent primer on Ryder Cup play!
The Ryder Cup is so different from other golf tournaments that I look forward to it every two years. Originally a competition between the US and England, which the US dominated, all of Europe now constitutes the European team, and in recent times the Euros have dominated.
We are used to hearing the announcers whisper during play and players wanting a spectator tossed merely for the clicking of their camera lens. The Ryder Cup throws out most of those rules and it is a raucous environment, with lots of singing and chanting. It is a “fun” three days. Golf is considered such a genteel game that a player calls a penalty on himself for a rules infraction. No refs required for the most part. That still applies, but the noise level is off the charts.
For most Americans, it is hard to understand the match play format, but that is what makes it so exciting. Scores do not accumulate as in regular tournaments, but each hole stands alone and the team who wins more holes wins the match. It can even end up in a tie, in which case each side receives half a point. in addition, during team play there are two formats: foursomes (two players for each side, with each team playing the ball his teammate hit until it is in the hole) and four ball (which awards the lower score of the two teammates, to the team). Again, the competition awards the hole to the team with the best score on that hole. If they tie, the hole is said to be halved and neither team has an advantage. No matter how many birdies a team may have made over the entire course, if the other team won a hole with a par, they are “one up.”
There are four matches each morning and afternoon the first two days, so a total of 16 points to be earned. On Sunday, all twelve players for each side play individual matches for an additional 12 points, making a total of 28 points. The team which won the cup the previous time needs only to win 14 points to retain it, while the other team needs to win at least 14-1/2 points to take it back. It can come down to the last match on the course and the players who have finished are there cheering for their teammates with lots of flag waving and lots of USA chants when it is on US soil.
When a team (or individual on Sunday) has won as many holes as are left to play, they are “dormie” which means they cannot lose and are guaranteed at least half a point. No matter how many birdies the other team wins, scores are won on a hole-by-hole basis, so total strokes don’t matter. If a match has one team leading by four and there are only three holes remaining, they are said to have won “4 and 3,” and play ends. That is how teammates can be off to cheer for the rest of their team still on the course.
Most often the scores come down to 14-1/2 to 13-1/2 because the rivalry is so intense. Watch on Sunday and you will feel the excitement! The only criticism I have is that, as in many sports, some fans are over the top and start shouting insults rather than simply cheering for their side. Only for that reason would I wish for more genteel behavior!
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