Tiger, Phil as teammates? Cheering for bad shots? Only in the Ryder Cup
Biennial event is fun, but also essential to survival of European Tour
Get ready to hear countless chants of "Ole, ole, ole!" and "USA!" on the TV next weekend.
The Ryder Cup, the biennial golf competition that pits the 12 best golfers from the United States and the 12 best golfers from Europe in a three-day event, will be back on the world’s sporting stage, and the above chants will be heard plenty from supporters of each side.
Here is a viewer’s guide to this year’s event in France and some facts you might not know about the Ryder Cup.
When: Sept. 28-30
Where: Le Golf National, Guyancourt, France (which is 13 miles from Paris)
TV: Friday - Golf Channel (2 a.m.- 1 p.m. ET); Saturday - NBC (3 a.m.- 1 p.m. ET); Sunday - NBC (6 a.m. - 1 p.m. ET).
Format: Match play consisting of foursomes (alternate shot) and four-ball (two players on each team play own ball) on Friday and Saturday, and singles matches on Sunday. There are 28 possible points, so the U.S. needs 14 to retain the cup as defending champion and Europe needs 14 1/2 points to win it back.
Last time: The United States snapped a three-event losing streak in 2016 at Hazeltine in Minnesota, winning the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2008 with a convincing 17-11 triumph.
Cheering for bad shots
The Ryder Cup is the only major golf event in which fans regularly cheer for missed putts or shots that go in the water, depending on which side you are rooting for. It’s a far different dynamic than every other golf tournament, in which every great shot is cheered and poor shots are met with silence from spectators.
Why the Ryder Cup is so important to Europe
This actually has nothing to do with the fact that European players have traditionally taken the event more seriously than their American counterparts, which is a big reason Europe won eight out of 10 Ryder Cups before 2016.
Simply put, the European Tour wouldn’t exist without the Ryder Cup.
Purses and sponsorships are roughly half of what they are on the PGA Tour, which is where the Ryder Cup comes to the rescue for the European Tour.
According to an article on ESPN in 2014, the European Tour loses money during years the Ryder Cup is not played.
The European Tour makes a small profit when the Ryder Cup is on American soil, but cashes in so much when it is in Europe that it helps fund events for years.
Golfweek reported that, in 2010, the European Tour made more than 14 million pounds in pretax profit from the 2010 event held at Celtic Manor in Wales.
The 2014 event was held at Gleneagles in Scotland.
This is not the British Open
When the Ryder Cup is held in Europe, it’s hard to tell it is taking place there just by looking at the courses.
Unlike the British Open, which is held on some of the world’s oldest and most famous links courses filled with gorse bushes, heather and pot bunkers, which are way different than most U.S. tracks, the Ryder Cup is usually held at American-style courses and resorts in Europe.
Grass is green and lush and layouts are pretty much like your typical American course.
So what’s the reason why Ryder Cups in Europe are typically held at such courses and resorts and not, say, St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf?
Well, it's money, of course.
Whether it’s to promote themselves or to help land a European Tour event as part of the conditions of hosting a Ryder Cup, courses pony up lots of dough to host the event, which as stated above, funds the European Tour for years.
About Le Golf National
This is the first time the Ryder Cup will be held in France. Le Golf National has built a state-of-the-art, massive grandstand along the first tee, which has a whopping 6,500 seats.
In comparison, the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland had 2,148 seats in its grandstand along the first tee, and Hazeltine had 1,668 seats in its grandstand along the first tee in 2016.
There also will be lots of water.
On the back nine alone, six of the nine holes have water in play. Overall, 10 of the 18 holes on the course do.
The last four holes of the course —15,16,17 and 18 —has been dubbed by locals as “The Loop of Doom,” with all but 17 needing shots over or around water.
Overall, the course favors good iron play, which is good for Europe, considering all the long hitters off the tee the U.S. has.
Loaded American team
The U.S. hasn’t won a Ryder Cup in Europe since 1993, and the Europeans always have a great chance of winning on home turf.
But, unlike past U.S. teams that have gone to Europe as prohibitive underdogs, this might be arguably best U.S. Ryder Cup team.
If there's ever a time the U.S. will be favored to win in Europe, this is it.
The Americans are stacked with talented, fearless young players in their 20s and early 30s who have already won majors, such as Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth.
Three players who haven’t won majors —Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau and Bryson DeChambeau— are ranked among the top 16 players in the world and are red-hot going in.
Oh, and if all that wasn’t enough, the U.S. team also has two guys named Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson who will be playing.
Tiger and Phil have never been friends, but as they have aged, have seemed to have lightened up a bit and at least become cordial with one another.
But don't expect them to be paired together at any point during the Friday and Saturday four-ball and foursomes action.
They were famously paired together for two sessions in the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills, and it was an unmitigated disaster.
Europe will have a raucous crowd behind it and a talented roster as well, led by world No. 1 Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and British Open champ Francesco Molinari.
But the U.S. squad is deeper on paper, and all the years of getting dominated by Europe has seemed to rekindle the U.S.’s fire to do well in the Ryder Cup.
From an improved organizational structure of choosing captains who have served as vice captains at prior events and prioritizing selecting players who are hotter as the Ryder Cup nears, the U.S. is better set up for success than in the past.
Of course, nothing tops having a stacked roster full of accomplished players, and that will ultimately carry the U.S. to victory.
Predicted final score: U.S. 15, Europe 13.
All images from Getty Images
Graham Media Group 2018