The Ryder Cup has become not only the greatest contest and spectacle in the world of golf it is now firmly entrenched as one of the sporting world’s most eagerly anticipated encounters.
From the near ashes of the regular defeats experienced by a Great Britain then Great Britain and Ireland side from the events inception in 1927 until the introduction of Continental Europe into the fold in 1979, the event has grown to the point where the outcome in any given year is never a given.
In the period between 1927 and 1977 the USA side dominated, winning 18 of the 22 encounters and sharing honours in another. Great Britain and Great Britain and Ireland (the side embraced Ireland in 1973) won on only three occasions during that period.
Since 1979, however, when Spain’s Severiano Ballesteros and Antonio Garrido brought a Continental European flavour to the side for the first time, the European side has won on ten occasions and lost 8 with one tied.
In fact, since and including 1985 when four Spaniards and Germany’s Bernhard Langer strengthened their side even further, Europe have won ten of the sixteen encounters and drawn one.
Not only has the growing strength of continental European players play its role, but so too has the emergence and greater self belief of British and Irish stars such as major champions Nick Faldo, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam amongst others.
Clearly the introduction of players from Europe in 1979 and, in turn, their elevation to the elite of the game however has served to provide Europe with domination in this second Ryder Cup era and created one of the most watched events in sport.
In 2018 the Americans are, on paper for what it is worth, again the favourites but as has so often been shown in the encounters since 1985 that factor is of little importance in the heat and passion that has become synonymous with such.
In 2018, six of the USA side are inside the current top ten in the latest World Ranking as the event gets underway while only one is outside the top 20.
Of the Europeans, they have only four inside the world’s top ten but perhaps tellingly they have six of their team ranked outside the top 20 in the world.
The factors that will balance this discrepancy to a large extent however are the essentially home ground advantage the European side will have, that most have played Le Golf National in Paris on many occasions and that despite the contrasting nationalities and cultures within the European side they have been regularly able to capitalise on the David verses Goliath mentality that can so often work in the favour of the underdog.
Both sides carry rookies, three (Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau and Justin Thomas) amongst the Americans while Europe have five Ryder Cup Debutantes in their line-up. Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrell Hatton, Alexander Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen face the heat of Ryder Cup for the very first occasions and while no doubt excited to be in the team they must now perform at a level of intensity they will have never experienced previously.
Despite the fact that neither side holds any real emotional ties to those of us down here in the southern hemisphere that this event captures our attention perhaps more than any other tells the story of a sporting contest that has captured the attention not only those from the participating regions but the golfing and sporting world as a whole.
Friday can’t come quickly enough.
Ryder Cup fever