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The 42nd Ryder Cup begins September 28 at France’s Le Golf National as America’s best golfers take on Europe’s best in 3 days of match play action. Team USA is the reigning champions, but has failed to win on European soil since 1993. Team captain Jim Furyk is hoping to motivate his star studded team, complete with a resurgent Tiger Woods and word number 1 Dustin Johnson, to end their European drought.
The biennial tournament dates back to a 1927 as a formalized contest between American and British golfers. Earlier exhibition matches had occured between professionals of both countries, but this was the first organized international match between the two countries. The tournament took its name from Samuel Ryder, a British businessman and golfing enthusiast who provided the the golden trophy. Because of the cost and duration of travel required, it was decided that the competition would be a biennial event. Irish golfers from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland began playing for Team Great Britain in the 1940s and 1950s, prompting a name change in 1973 to team Great Britain and Ireland to better reflect this fact. However, a period of post-WWII dominance created the most drastic change to the Ryder Cup.
Expansion to Europe
The American team only lost one Ryder Cup between 1947 and 1977, and the lack of competitiveness loosened the appeal of the match. The idea to include European golfers was initially discussed by American golfer Jack Nicklaus and British golf official Edward Stanley as a way to increase the competitiveness of the match. This period in golf saw a surge of European golfers, notably Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros, who proved eager for the chance to compete against the Americans. The decision was made and 1979 saw the formal change in the Ryder Cup to a match between America’s best golfers and the best golfers of Europe. Since the change the Europeans have won 10 Ryder Cups outright to the Americans 8.
The format of the Ryder Cup is unique to professional golf. It contains of 3 different match play events. The tournament begins with games of foursomes, which pits teams of 2 against each other. These teams must play alternating shots while trying to outscore their opponent on an individual hole. For each hole won that team earns a point. Next games of fourball are played also requiring teams of 2. In fourball, each golfer hits their own ball, with the individual low score on each hole winning that hole for their team. Lastly, the Ryder Cup ends with intense singles matches pitting individual golfers against each other in a match play format. In all, there are 8 games of foursomes, 8 games of fourball and 12 singles matches. The team with the most wins out of all the matches is declared the winner of the Ryder Cup.