The biggest and most prestigious event in golf today concluded last weekend. The Ryder Cup 2004 was the 35th tournament played between Europe and the USA since it started in 1927.
In the early days, the Ryder Cup was played between players of the American and British Professional Golf Associations, but the latter were always the underdogs. Thus in recent years the whole of Europe was included in the "against USA" team to make the match more interesting. This is why you will find that players such as world's number 1 and 3, Vijay Singh (Fiji) and Ernie Els (South Africa), cannot take part, although I'm sure both of them itch to participate.
Golf is usually known as an individual sport. However in this tournament you are not playing for yourself or the $5 million purse. You are playing for a team. More than that, you are playing for your country or continent! The pressure of performing well is unbelievably high for Ryder Cup players.
I stayed awake, glued to my tv set till early in the morning for three consecutive days to witness the glorious event being held at Oakland Hills Country Club, Bloomfield Hills, in the US. Most avid golfers are aware of what the Ryder cup is all about, and many would have followed this year's event. For those of you new to golf, or who missed it, let me give you a brief rundown on its format and how it concluded this year.
Played over three days, the tournament has 28 matches all together, with one point awarded for each match (half a point each for a draw).
Teams are led by a non-playing captain with 12 players in each team. Ten of a team's players are chosen off the top of their respective PGA's order of merit, and two players are chosen by a captain's pick. On Day One, there are eight matches over 36 holes-four matches of four ball and four matches of foursomes. The same format continues on Day Two. On the final day, there are 12 single matches.
This year Hal Sutton captained for USA and Bernhard Langer led the European side. Players on the American side included Tiger Woods, left hander Phil Michelson and consistent veteran Kenny Perry. The European side included young and dynamic Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harington and veteran Colin Montgomerie.
On Day One, the battle was dominated by Europe-6? to 1?. By the end of Day Two, the Americans had clawed back to 5 against Europe's 11. This left America in an impossible position, and on the final day Europe won the trophy with 18? points to America's 9?.
In reality the standard of golf in the US is far better than in Europe. This is obvious if you consider the total prize money of the professional tours, where the US has 2? times more than Europe.
Simply put, the Europeans were better team players. They were helping each other on the course to see the line of their putts and judging distances, whereas the Americans were playing more individual games. The US team received a lot of criticism in their local press for their lack of team spirit, which cost them the tournament.
Let's hope the US understands the need put team spirit before selfish individualism, and that the next Ryder Cup in 2006 ends up being a more exciting match.
Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Head Golf Professional at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu. [email protected]