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Biggest Golfing Event In The World

Without a doubt, the biggest golfing event in the world is the Ryder Cup, a competition held every 2 years between 2 teams from Europe and the USA. A match between the professional golfers of Britain and the United States at Wentworth in 1926 was the forerunner of the Ryder Cup. The first official match was played the next year after Samuel Ryder, a seed merchant from St. Albans, England, offered a gold cup for a biennial match between teams representing Great Britain and Ireland and the United States.

On September 27, 1920 Golf Illustrated wrote a letter to the Professional Golfers' Association of America with a suggestion that a team of 12 to 20 American professionals be chosen to play in the 1921 British Open, to be financed by popular subscription. At that time no American golfer had won the British Open. The idea was that of James D. Harnett, who worked for the magazine. The PGA of America made a positive reply and the idea was announced in the November 1920 issue. The fund was called the British Open Championship Fund. By the next spring the idea had been firmed-up. A team of 12 would be chosen, who would sail in time to play a warm-up tournament at Gleneagles (The Glasgow Herald 1000 Guinea Tournament) prior to the British Open at St. Andrews, two weeks later. The team of 12 was chosen by PGA President George Sargent and PGA Secretary Alec Pirie, with the assistance of USGA Vice-President Robert Gardner. A team of 11 sailed from New York on the RMS Aquitania on May 24, 1921 together with James Harnett. The team was later joined by James Douglas Edgar.

The idea for a 12-a-side International Match between the American and Great Britain professionals was reported in The Times on May 17. The match would be played at Gleneagles on Monday June 6, the day before the start of the 1000 Guinea Tournament. With Jim Barnes indisposed, the match eventually became a 10-a-side contest, Edgar being left out of the American team. The match consisted of 5 foursomes in the morning and 10 singles in the afternoon, played on the King's Course. The match was won by Great Britain by 9 matches to 3, 3 matches being halved.

European dominance in the Ryder Cup

After two decades of European dominance in the Ryder Cup, the Americans have created a task force to figure out why they keep losing.

Phil Mickelson was among 11 players, captains and PGA of America officials who were appointed to the "Ryder Cup Task Force" that will look at everything from qualifications to captain's picks and even practice schedules during the matches.

Europe has won the Ryder Cup eight of the last 10 times, including a comfortable victory last month at Gleneagles that was remembered as much for Mickelson indirectly criticizing U.S. captain Tom Watson's leadership style in the closing press conference.

Mickelson (10 appearances) and Jim Furyk (nine) have played on only two winning teams. The other players are Steve Stricker, an assistant captain at Gleneagles, and Rickie Fowler, who has yet to win a match in his two Ryder Cups.

The former captains are Davis Love III (2012), Tom Lehman (2006) and Raymond Floyd (1989). None captained a winning team.

The previous two Ryder Cups were decided by one point, including Medinah in 2012 when Europe rallied from a 10-6 deficit behind impeccable putting. Justin Rose sank a 45-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole in singles and Ian Poulter made five straight birdies in a momentum-turning fourballs match Saturday afternoon.

PGA President Ted Bishop, saying he was tired of losing, picked Watson to be captain for Gleneagles. Watson had not been to a Ryder Cup since he was captain of the last U.S. team that won in Europe in 1993, and at 65 he was the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history.

The move backfired. Watson appeared to be out of touch at Gleneagles. The Ryder Cup ended with an awkward news conference in which Mickelson - beside Watson - praised the success of Paul Azinger in 2008 in the most recent U.S. victory and suggested that Watson didn't embrace that winning formula.

In the aftermath of the loss, various reports painted a picture of a heavy-handed leadership style in the U.S. team that brought even more attention to the loss.

The task force does not include Azinger, who said on Monday it was too soon after the Ryder Cup. Azinger said he has a private meeting already scheduled with the PGA of America within the next month.

The co-chairs are PGA chief executive Pete Bevacqua and Derek Sprague, next in line to be PGA president at its annual meeting next month. Paul Levy, the PGA secretary, was the third official appointed to the task force.

Sprague told The Associated Press in Bermuda the task force has people who represent all but two Ryder Cup teams from 1975.

"Back in those days, we were winning," Sprague said. "The last 20 years have been a real challenge."

Sprague said the task force would cover the way the captain is selected, how players qualify, how many captain's picks, when they should be picked, even small details like when the team arrives and the schedule leading to it.

Watson asked the PGA Tour for a week off before Gleneagles. That led to four consecutive FedEx Cup playoff events.

"We heard feedback that wasn't such a good idea," Sprague said.

Overlooked in the reaction to the latest American loss was the strength of the European team, which had four of the top five players in the world when the teams were set. Europe had three of the four major champions in Rory McIlroy (British Open, PGA Championship) and Martin Kaymer (U.S. Open).

"I see the negative connotations to it taking away from our victory, but I see the positive side that they'll have to really have an in-depth look to what they are doing wrong, and try to bring together a recipe that connects," Graeme McDowell said from the Volvo World Match Play Championship in England.

The PGA of America did not reveal a timetable for when the task force would meet or even what would come out of it. The next captain, typically announced at the PGA annual meeting in November, will not be selected until next year.

"I think we're naive to think we're going to perfect a winning process in the next 24 months," Sprague said. "I think this task force needs to be open to it. If we win in 2016, great. But even if we win, we shouldn't say the process is perfect. It will be evolving."

The British team was: George Duncan (captain), James Braid, Arthur Havers, Abe Mitchell, James Ockenden, Ted Ray, James Sherlock, J.H. Taylor, Josh Taylor, Harry Vardon. The American team was: Emmet French (captain), Clarence Hackney, Walter Hagen, Charles Hoffner, Jock Hutchison, Tom Kerrigan, George McLean, Fred McLeod, Bill Melhorn and Wilfrid Reid. Gold medals were presented by the Duchess of Atholl to each member of the teams at the conclusion of the Glasgow Herald tournament on Saturday afternoon. The medals "had on one side crossed flags, The Union Jack and Stars and Stripes surmounted by the inscription "For Britain" or "For America" as the case may be" and on the other side "America v Britain. First international golf match at "The Glasgow Herald" tournament, Gleneagles, June 6, 1921".

A team of American amateur golfers were also in Britain in 1921, their objective being to win The Amateur Championship at Hoylake. A match between American and British amateur golfers was played on May 21, immediately before The Amateur Championship. This match was also arranged at a late stage, being announced in The Times on May 10. The Times reports that the match was arranged by Gershom Stewart M.P. The 1921 British Open was won by Jock Hutchison, one of the American professional team. So, despite losing the International Match, the American team achieved its main objective, winning the British Open.

The match played at Hoylake in 1921 between British and American amateur golfers was followed by the creation of the Walker Cup, which was played in 1922, 1923, 1924 and then (for financial reasons) on a biennial basis from 1926. However the Gleneagles match did not immediately lead to a corresponding match between the professionals.

It was common at this time for a small number of professionals to travel to compete in each other's national championship. In 1926, a larger than usual contingent of American professionals were travelling to Britain to compete in the Open Championship, two weeks before their own Championship. In February it was announced that Walter Hagen would select a team of four American professionals (including himself) to play four British professionals in a match before the Open Championship. The match would be a stroke play competition with each playing the four opposing golfers over 18 holes. In mid-April it was announced that "A golf enthusiast, who name has not yet been made public" was ready to donate a cup for an annual competition. Later in April it was announced that Samuel Ryder would be presenting a trophy "for annual competition between British and American professionals." with the first match to be played on June 4 and 5 "but the details are not yet decided", and then in May it was announced that the match would be a match-play competition, 8-a-side, foursomes on the first day, singles on the second. Eventually, at Hagen's request, 10 players competed for each team. Samuel Ryder (and his brother James) had been a major sponsor of British professional golf for a number of years.

The match resulted in 13-1 victory for the British team (1 match was halved). The American point was won by Bill Mehlhorn with Emmet French being all square. Medals were presented to the players by the American ambassador Alanson B. Houghton. The match was widely reported as being for the "Ryder Cup". However Golf Illustrated for June 11 states that because of uncertainty following the general strike in May, which lead to uncertainty about how many Americans would be visiting Britain, Samuel Ryder had decided to withhold the cup for a year. It has also been suggested that the fact that the Ryder Cup itself may not have been in existence at the time, that Walter Hagen chose the American team rather than the American PGA, that only those Americans who had travelled to Britain to play in the Open were available for selection and that it contained a number of players born outside the United States, also contributed to the feeling that the match ought to be regarded as unofficial. In addition the Americans "had only just landed in England and were not yet in full practice."

The British team was: Ted Ray (Captain), Aubrey Boomer, Archie Compston, George Duncan, George Gadd, Arthur Havers, Herbert Jolly, Abe Mitchell, Fred Robson and Ernest Whitcombe. The American team was: Walter Hagen (Captain), Tommy Armour, Jim Barnes, Emmet French, Joe Kirkwood, Fred McLeod, Bill Mehlhorn, Joe Stein, Cyril Walker and Al Watrous. While all ten of the British players subsequently played in the Ryder Cup only three of the Americans did (Hagen, Mehlhorn and Watrous). Armour, Barnes, Kirkwood, McLeod and Walker were excluded by the policy of requiring players to be born in the USA while French and Stein were never selected.

The 1927 competition was organised on a much more formal basis. A Ryder Cup "Deed of Trust" was drawn up formalising the rules of the contest, while each of the PGA organisations had a selection process. In Britain Golf Illustrated launched a fund to raise £3,000 to fund professional golfers to play in the U.S. Open and the Ryder Cup. Ryder contributed £100 and, when the fund closed with a shortfall of £300, he made up the outstanding balance himself. Although not in the rules at that time, the American PGA restricted their team to those born in the United States.

In early 1928 it became clear that an annual contest was not practical and so it was decided that the second contest should be in 1929 and then every two years thereafter. For the 1929 UK contest at Moortown GC, Leeds, the American PGA again restricted their team to those born in the USA but in late 1929 the Deed of Trust was revised requiring all players to be born in and resident in their respective countries, as well as being members of their respective Professional Golfers' Association.

In 22 matches between 1927 and 1977, Great Britain and Ireland won only three times. The match had become so one-sided that, in 1977, it was decided to include European players in the team from the rapidly developing European Tour. This change led to the end of the Americans' long dominance of the event. The famous trophy, given by Samuel Ryder, cost £750 ($3,600) in 1927.

Jim Furyk is the only player in the last 25 years to experience both ends of emotion in that moment the Ryder Cup is over. He knows how empty it feels to lose the decisive game. And he has been soaked in a celebration of champagne. Oddly enough, both happened in the same match. It was in 2002, when Paul McGinley made an 8-foot par putt for a half-point against Furyk that won the Ryder Cup.

Pandemonium broke out on the 18th green at The Belfry. European captain Sam Torrance was close to tears. McGinley was mobbed by his teammates. "I'm trying to go over and shake hands," Furyk said. "Sam Torrance had a bottle of champagne in his hand and he was spraying everyone. He had his back turned to me. He saw someone come up from behind and he turned and sprayed me - and then he realized it was me. He immediately put the bottle down and said, 'Oh my god, Jimmy, I'm so sorry.' I said, 'Sam, look, it's OK. You all deserve to celebrate. I know it was an accident. You all have a good time tonight.'"

Furyk offered a sound piece of reality for whoever winds up in that position Sunday at Gleneagles. "Losing hurts worse than winning feels good," he said. Losing is lonely in the Ryder Cup. Americans know that all too well. "I took it hard," Furyk said. "I was upset by the fact it was my point. When I look back, we had 28 points to be won. I know it was my fault. No one on the team is thinking that. No one in the media is thinking that. No one is thinking that - except the person in that position. It wasn't Hunter's fault. But he's going to feel bad because you're stuck in that spot. Even as a kid in baseball, your team is losing 7-3, two outs in the bottom of the ninth. You don't want to be the guy who ends the game," Furyk said. "And that's how the Ryder Cup is. It just (stinks) to be in that spot."

But he wouldn't mind another opportunity, even if the pain of losing can be just as great as the glory of winning. "It's cool to be in that position. How many guys get that chance?" Furyk said. "When you do something good, it's a boost of confidence. When you do something not so good, I promise you learn a hell of a lot from it." Furyk eventually got his day. Six years later, he defeated Miguel Angel Jimenez on the 17th hole at Valhalla that clinched victory for the Americans. The winning putt was conceded, so the celebration wasn't as spontaneous, though it felt just as good.

Perhaps THE GREATEST U.S. Ryder Cup team ever was the 1981 squad that included Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Raymond Floyd, and Jack Nicklaus. Certainly the score would back up the claim, with the U.S. handing Europe its largest margin of defeat to this day—18 1/2 to 9 1/2 —since players from continental Europe became part of the team two years earlier.

Also on the U.S. side was that year’s British Open champion, Bill Rogers, who’s seated at the end of the row with Nicklaus on his right in the team photo, which hangs on the wall of Rogers’s San Antonio home. “I look at that picture from time to time and can hardly believe that I was placed in that cast of characters,” says Rogers, now 63. “I don’t think you could draw up a better Ryder Cup team than ’81. I don’t think anybody would argue with that.” No one on the team had as many tournament victories that year as Rogers, who won three other events plus the PGA Player of the Year Award. He also finished second to David Graham at the U.S. Open at Merion. Ironically, he started the year with five missed cuts in a row.

Tall, blond, and good looking with a sweet swing and Texas twang, “Buck,” as his tour buddies called him (as in Buck Rogers), looked like a pro golfer out of Central Casting. Like his outer-space alter ego, Rogers was flying high in the early ’80s both figuratively and literally. But just a few years later, he was out of fuel and left the tour for good at the end of the 1988 season, a victim of burnout from non-stop play chasing appearance money anywhere in the world someone was willing to pay for a British Open Champion.

No doubt one of the most exciting days in Cup history, it was also marked by one of the matches' low points. The date September 26, 1999, does not stick in my mind, but what happened on that Sunday, the last day of the Ryder Cup at Brookline, certainly does. It is unforgettable, one of the most significant days ever in the biennial competition. Although the U.S. had begun the day four points behind Europe, there was a monumental home comeback. The U.S. was on its way to winning the first six singles matches.

American fans are better behaved than their British counterparts. Certainly, the British fans were no saints at The Belfry in 1989, causing Astrid Jacklin, wife of Tony, the European captain, to wheel round on them and say, “Shush. It’s bad enough that they have driven into the water without your applauding their mistakes.” On the other hand, the Americans weren’t much better at Kiawah in 1991.

But the atmosphere at The Country Club that Sunday was hostile. James Montgomerie, Colin’s father, had to leave the course because the level of abuse directed at his son was so upsetting. The gentlemanly Payne Stewart, Montgomerie’s opponent, intervened several times on Montgomerie’s behalf during the course of their match and later conceded the 18th, and their match, to him.

It came on the 17th green in the match between Jose Maria Olazabal and Justin Leonard. Many of the American team, as well as Ben Crenshaw, their captain, and their supporters, had gathered by the green sensing victory. When Leonard’s long putt found the cup, celebrations broke out.

American players, including Tom Lehman, who had led the comeback by beating Lee Westwood in the first match, invade the putting surface. Phil Mickelson is exulting with his wife Amy while Tiger Woods has leapt high into the air. Olazabal, meanwhile, still has a putt for a halve.  “That was no way to behave,” Olazabal said later, after he and Leonard had halved their match. “I call for respect from fellow professionals to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

There had been right and wrong on both sides. The Europeans were furious at the invasion of the green; the Americans were angry at how slowly Padraig Harrington had played against Mark O’Meara. Three years later at The Belfry, however, things were much more gentlemanly, influenced by the sad events of 9/11/2001, as well as Sunday, September 26, 1999.

Doug Ferguson. The agony of the Ryder Cup. The Oklahoman. September 24, 2014.
Tom Cunneff. Where Are They Now? Links Magazine. Fall 2014.
John Hopkins. 1999 Ryder Cup. Links Magazine. Fall 2014.

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