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USA Ready To Reclaim The Cup

What America has to do to win the Ryder Cup, and the players that are on Team USA
By Gary Jordan
Published on September 21, 2021

Steve Stricker USA team captain Steve Stricker in 2012. PHOTO COURTESY WWW.TOURPROGOLFCLUBS.COM

One of sport's most magical and dramatic showdowns occurs this coming weekend, when the elite golfers of the United States play their counterparts from Europe in the Ryder Cup. The traditional biannual tournament is being held on the Straits course at Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wisconsin, and this will be the 43rd time that the cup (named for its instigator and organizer, an Englishman named Samuel Ryder, 1858-1936) will be contested.

Like so many other major sports the competition has had to be rescheduled. It was due to take place last September, just a week after the US Open, but the shuffling of the golfing calendar due to the Covid pandemic meant that it was postponed a year.

The last time it was played, the Ryder Cup went to Europe after a keenly fought final round. Europe have had the upper hand of late, winning 9 of the last 12 competitions, and they were victorious in 2018 in France. The final score of 17 ½ - 10 ½ regained the Cup which USA won in 2016 17-11. With the tournament format, it will need a big swing again as the Americans will need to achieve 14 ½ points to win back the bragging rights.

Ryder Cup logo

The Ryder Cup is a three-day tournament with varied formats of the game played, and each win is worth a point, a tied game offering ½ point to each team. On the Friday morning it is a foursome, which is an alternate format between two pairs of opposing teams. This is quickly followed by the fourballs, which is a better ball in play format. There is a total of 8 points up for grabs in total for these. This is repeated on the Saturday. Then on the Sunday all 12 golfers from each team will play in singles matches; this is when the tension rises and the pressure increases on the team captains to get their order right.

The right to play in the tournament, isn’t just being a popular player. Qualification is earned over the year. Prize money and points won in other tournaments act as a league table to play your way into the team. Six players get automatic selection, with another six players added as the captains' Wild Card picks. This is when the headaches start for the team captains as some that have been solid Ryder Cup players in the past may not already have made it in by merit.

Steve Stricker is the USA team captain this time, and chose Jim Furyk as vice-captain, with Zach Johnson, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson, and Fred Couples added to his backroom staff later.

The team this year has some fresh faces, but also some of the world’s best players. The automatic picks through merit order are Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, and Patrick Cantlay. It will be Morikawa and Cantlay’s first Ryder Cup. Stricker's Wild Cards filling out the full team are Tony Finau, Xandr Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Harris English, Daniel Berger, and Scottie Scheffler. Of these six only Finau and Spieth have played in previous Ryder Cups, meaning there are six rookies on the team compared to just two on the European team.

The Ryder Cup is not like any other golf tournament. Each weekend the competitors play for their individual goals, the focus on their own game, and it can be very lonely when you’re in your zone. What the Ryder Cup does is bring out the best of you in the way you look at your teammates - not just the ones you are partnered with, but keeping an eye on the giant scoreboards to see how your match is affecting others on the course, and what more you could do to help your team. The way you encourage your colleagues is one standout element as the last day concludes. Brooks Koepka, who has played in two Ryder Cups and has a 56% winning record in his eight matches played, told Golf Digest, “It's tough, there are times where I’m like, I won my match. I did my job. What do you want from me? I know how to take responsibility for the shots I hit every week. Now, somebody else hit a bad shot and left me in a bad spot, and I know this hole is a loss.” Preparation is key, but team ethic even more so.

There is no doubt that the Ryder Cup is something that all sports fans can get behind. It brings out the best in those playing and offers the most heartbreaking drama when they get it wrong. Patriotism plays a huge part as well, something that has gotten both teams in trouble in the past, but it shows what is at stake, and the will to win and not let your team down.

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