The Ryder Cup: America versus Europe

Es uno de los acontecimientos más esperados del calendario deportivo, en gran parte porque solo se celebra cada dos años. En la Ryder Cup, el Nuevo Mundo y el Viejo Continente despliegan una sana pero feroz rivalidad por algo más que un trofeo de golf por equipos.

Toby Saul

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British golfer Justin Rose at the 2016 Ryder Cup,  played in Chaska,  Minnesota, US.

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Like all the best legends, the beginnings of the Ryder Cup are disputed. Whoever first had the idea, history records that in 1921 at Gleneagles in Scotland, an informal match between Britain and America was played with the home team comfortably beating the visitors 9-3. Another match – which the United States also lost – was played in 1926 at the Wentworth course in England. Some of the most important names in early 20th century golf competed. The Englishman Abe Mitchell beat the American Walter Hagen, who went on to become one of golf’s all-time greats.


Watching the match in the stands was a man named Samuel Ryder. Ryder was a businessman, politician and golf fanatic who employed Mitchell as a coach. He had taken up golf at the age of fifty-one when his doctor recommended light exercise. After the match, Ryder invited British team members Mitchell and George Duncan to have tea with him and their American counterparts, Walter Hagen and Emmett French. It was here that Ryder came up with the idea of a regular match between the two sides. Each player would receive £5 and be entertained with champagne and chicken sandwiches at a party afterwards. By the time of the first official match, the prize money had risen to £250 and a gold trophy that bore Ryder’s name was included.


The outbreak of the Second World War caused the competition to be cancelled and the Cup was next contested in 1947. The post-war period saw a long run of American domination, which only started to change when other European nations were admitted to the competition in 1979.


The arrival of other players and the opportunity to play in a range of European countries has made the Ryder Cup – now a biennial tournament hosted alternately by Europe and the United States – into one of the most fascinating events of the sporting calendar, with the friendly but unrelenting rivalry between the old and new world as a permanent fixture of the game. The venue for the 2018 competition – Le Golf National near Paris – has been described by Jim Furyk, captain of the American team, as perhaps the grandest and most spectacular location in the match’s history. Whether the players still get a chicken sandwich at the end of it all is unknown.

a Transatlantic Rivalry

With roots stretching back to before the Second World War, the biennial Ryder Cup is one of the best-loved fixtures in the golf calendar. The hosting of this biennial competition alternates between North America and Europe, and the 2018 tournament will be held in France’s Le Golf National from September 28th to 30th. In a joint press conference held last year, the two team captains – Jim Furyk of the United States, and Thomas Bjørn for Europe – met in Paris to talk about the imminent showdown. Furyk began by praising the golf course. 

Jim Furyk (American accent): Usually when your expectations are so high, when they talk about something so grand, it never really lives up to it. And I was pleasantly surprised when I came in July, I was able to play the golf course on a special day with my father, with my son, with my father-in-law. The four of us played. I was pleasantly surprised. I was able to drive the course the day before with my father and kind of take some notes and get an idea of the feel of the golf course and it is a fantastic, fantastic site. I think it will provide a lot of strategy for match play.


Bjørn is one of Denmark’s most successful professional golfers. He believes that the Cup brings Europe and the world together.

Thomas Bjørn (mild Danish accent): European history is very special. It’s very special to each country in Europe, and when you come to this country, there might not be a country in the world that has a greater history and has more pride in its own history. The Ryder Cup provides so much more to the world than just a game of golf over three days. It touches hearts. It goes [out] to two hundred countries around the world, it goes to [out] hundreds of millions of people that are watching it.


Golf is associated with older players. But it is the younger American players, says Furyk, that bring energy to the sport and to the team.

Jim Furyk: We have a lot of young players on the team that hang out a lot off the golf course. They are a tight-knit group. It’s been fun that they’ve sparked some energy not only on the golf course but in the team room for us year in year out. But it’s been a fun process getting to know them. You want a good mix of players in your room, but I’m surely thankful in [for] the spark of life that we’ve had for the last few years. It’s been fun. 


Becoming a world-class golfer takes both skill and courage, says Bjørn.

Thomas Bjørn: When you bring 24 of the best players together against each other, they can play any golf course in the world, they can stand up against adversity, they can stand up against anything because that’s why they are the best players in the world. It can be tough to play in America, but also I think, athletes have this thing in them that they like playing when it’s tough. They like to try and show that they can overcome that. 


And Furyk praises the sheer enthusiasm of the European crowd. 

Jim Furyk: My hat’s off to the European crowd for … They make a lot of noise. Even in small numbers in the US, it takes about thirty thousand Americans to drown out with USA chants twenty-five hundred Europeans and their songs and chants.

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