Anticipation has never been higher, The Ryder Cup, the most prestigious and distinguished tournament in golf, is now just a few short weeks away …
The greens at Gleneagles are being trimmed in preparation and golfing’s elite will be building themselves up to go head to head with their cross-Atlantic counterparts.
It’s been over 40 years since the cup has been contested in Scotland and Gleneagles will be welcoming the greats from Europe and the USA officially for the first time since the competition’s inception in 1927.
Many fans across the continents are aware of all the famous moments: ‘The Miracle of Medina’, ‘The Battle of Brookline’, but few may be familiar with how the cup, named after English businessman Samuel Ryder, was born.
The Ryder Cup – The Beginnings …
Although 2014 will mark the first time ‘The Ryder Cup’ has been contested at the Perth and Kinross, the origins of the tournament can be traced back to a meeting in 1921 – six years before the famous trophy was first contested.
On September 27th 1920, Golf Illustrated wrote a letter to the PGA of America suggesting that a team of US professionals should take part in the British Open with a 12-a-side international warm-up match to be played at Gleneagles.
The USA lost that weekend, but when it really counted six years later in Worcester, Massachusetts, it was a runaway victory for the Stars and Stripes who secured a 9 ½ – 2 ½ victory.
The Ryder Cup – The Winners …
And that pattern followed for the next 50 years, with Great Britain (latterly to become Europe) only tasting success on three separate occasions. Walter Hagan was a big part of the United States’ dominance through the mid part of the century, setting the original standard by captaining the US to four victories in his six outings as skipper.
Walter Hagan was a big part of the United States’ dominance through the mid part of the century, setting the original standard by captaining the US to four victories in his six outings as skipper.
No man has captained their team as often as the 11-time major winner, with only Dai Rees, Charles Whitcombe and Tony Jacklin coming close.
And, coincidently, it was Jacklin who began to turn the tide for Europe in the 1980s.
The 1983 match at the PGA National Golf Club saw Jacklin go head-to-head once again with Jack Nicklaus, who, decades earlier, had sportingly conceded a two-foot putt that the Englishman needed to secure a tie for Europe during the 1969 Ryder Cup.
However, this time round Nicklaus neglected to offer the same amount of sportsmanship when his US side edged out their opponents by a narrow margin of 14 1/2- 13 ½.
Despite this narrow defeat, the 1983 European performance gave everybody on the continent hope that the US’ 26-year period of dominance was about to come to an end.
1983 was the first and only time Jacklin suffered defeat as captain, and under his stewardship, Europe headed into the 1990’s after experiencing their most successful period in Ryder Cup history.
The Ryder Cup in 2014 …
Today, the Ryder Cup couldn’t be more hotly contested.
Experts are tipping Europe as Ryder Cup favourites this time round following that majestic comeback in 2012 when the widely fancied Americans were left shell-shocked when Europe won eight out of 12 singles matches in the final round to mark one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history.
Europe’s dominance over the last few years has been down to extracting the best out of players such as Ian Poulter who, renowned for his passion and spectacular under-pressure performances, have given the European’s the edge.
Poulter will be there once again this year, but he’ll be facing a US team that will be led by Tom Watson who has previously steered his nation to victory on British soil in 2002 with a 15-13 win at The Belfry.
The history of the Ryder Cup is one of the most fascinating in sport. As Seve looked down on Europe last time, we witnessed the most fascinating and enthralling tournament of them all.
2014 has a lot to live up to, but you can guarantee that whatever happens a new chapter in the Cup’s glittering history will be written.
By Ian Mullins