Tag: Ryder Cup

The 2021 Ryder Cup

Whistling Straits, Haven WI

The 2021 Ryder Cup

Today begins the long-awaited, and highly anticipated 2021 Ryder Cup. With all the pent-up energy of waiting an extra year (postponed from 2020 due to COVID), and then being trapped inside for much of the time, you don’t have to be Nostradamus to predict the crowds will be even more motivated and raucous than usual. Tournament organizers briefly considered holding the competition without fans last year, but that idea was quickly dismissed after negative comments made by a number of players, most notably Brooks Koepka (“The fans make the event”). And the fans have been particularly important for the American side. Europe has taken the Cup in seven of the last ten competitions, including four of the last five, and the three won by the American side have all come on home soil. Prior to each, the general consensus would always be that the American team should dominate because they had so much depth of talent, yet somehow the Europeans, with a couple of stars and a host of no-names, would walk away with a shocking victory. Well, this year’s battle will be no different with a powerhouse American team going up against Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, what’s his name, and who’s that guy. Just don’t take it to the bank—the European players have been ingrained with a hate-to-lose attitude that goes all the way back to Seve Ballesteros. And two of their biggest victories have come right here (Oakland Hills in ’04 and Medinah in ’12). Something tells me this is going to be a special weekend.

The History

The first Ryder Cup was played in 1927 at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts, and named in honor of English businessman and golf enthusiast, Samuel Ryder. The American team, captained by Walter Hagen, pounded the Europeans led by Ted Ray with a thumping 9 1/2 to 2 1/2 victory. Until 1977, the European team consisted of only players from Great Britain and Ireland, and the American team dominated the competition, winning 21 of the 25 Ryder Cups played. Beginning in 1979 the rules were modified, allowing players from all of continental Europe to participate in the competition, and the tide began to turn. The American team, led by Jack Nicklaus, won handily in ‘79 and ‘81, but the 1983 Ryder Cup was extremely close as the Americans pulled out a tough 14 ½-13 ½ victory. In ’85 and ’87 the American teams went down to defeat, ushering in a period of intense competition and European ascension, led by the charismatic leadership of Seve Ballesteros. Since 1985, the European team has won 11 times, the American team 5 times, and there was one draw (1989). The last quarter century of Ryder Cup competition has produced some of the most memorable moments in sports history, including the “War on the Shore” (1991) and the “Miracle at Medinah” (2012) as the European team staged an incredible comeback victory following the tragic passing of Seve Ballesteros.

The Teams

The 2021 American team is captained by Steve Stricker, and includes a powerful group of big names, including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth. Long hitting Tony Finau, a resurgent Harris English, up-and-coming Scottie Scheffler and the gritty Daniel Berger round out an incredibly deep cast of talented players. The European team, captained by 3-time major champion Padraig Harrington, will be anchored by Rory McIlroy and Jon Rham, two of the greatest players in the world. Backing them up will be seasoned veterans of Ryder Cup competition Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey. They will be joined by Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowery, a pair of solid professionals who don’t back down to anybody, as well as talented youngsters Victor Hoveland and Matthew Fitzpatrick. Tyrell Hatton and Bernd Wiesberger, two of the top players on the European tour, round out a tough European team.

The Venue

Whistling Straits, located in Haven WI, and host to three PGA Championships (2004, 2010 and 2015) will host the 2021 Ryder Cup. Home to two Pete Dye masterpieces (Irish/Straits) and opened in 1998, Whistling Straits is among the finest golf resorts in the World. The matches will be fought on the Straits course, which boasts a course rating of 77.2 and a slope of 152. Don’t miss a minute of what is sure to be some of the greatest golf you will ever see.

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PGA Tour Schedule Update

Image from the Harbor Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, SC that includes the famous lighthouse and view of the 18th hole.
Harbor Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, SC

Up-coming Tour Schedule

Now that the PGA Tour is back, I’m sure we’re all excited to watch golf on a weekly basis again.  COVID-19 and the cancelation of nine events from March through May has forced the Tour schedule to be completely reorganized. Let me take you through what the next few months of tournament play will look like. Following this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial, the RBC Heritage at Harbor Town Golf Links is up next. There’s a chance that Tiger may make Hilton Head his first tournament back (his yacht is reportedly headed there), but tournament officials have had no official commitment from Woods thus far on whether he will be playing. Not to worry, there will be plenty of big names teeing it up regardless. Stars like four-time major winners Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy, John Rahm (ranked 2 in the world), Justin Thomas (fourth ranked), Dustin Johnson (fifth ranked) have already committed, so all of the top 5 players in the world will be there. After that comes the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands, where Koepka, McIlroy, Thomas, Johnson, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, and Jason Day will be competing. The Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club is next, with Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, and Bubba Watson having made firm commitments so far. With fields like these, packed with superstars, tour fans should be gearing up for some great golf in the next month. After that, Muirfield Village and Jack will be hosting two consecutive tournaments, a newly sponsored event called Workday, Inc., and the Memorial Tournament—taking place from July 6 to July 19.

The fans come back!

The governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, recently announced that the Memorial will have spectators, so golf fans get ready to grab your tickets, but also be safe, and remember to follow the rules for social distancing. To be extra safe, the tour is also planning to have mandatory temperature readings. While this may sound like a pain in the neck, it’s the prudent way to keep everybody safe while cheering for our favorite pro. The 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Minneapolis, MN will be held the week after (July 23-26) followed by the FedEx St. Jude Classic (now a WGC event) and The Barracuda Championship (the same week). Then comes the PGA, the first major of the year. The Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro North Carolina is after the PGA, followed by the FedEx Cup playoffs. The playoffs will be held in similar fashion as previous years, with the Northern Trust, BMW Championship, and the Tour Championship taking place from August 23 through September 7. After that, the Safeway Open is scheduled to play at Johnny Miller’s Silverado Country Club in Napa, California.

The Majors

Unfortunately, the R&A has decided that The Open Championship will not be held this year (The Memorial will be played that week instead). The PGA Championship will be held from August 6-9 at TPC Harding Park, a renowned municipal course in San Francisco, CA. The PGA has not been held on the west coast since Sahalee in 1998, and it will be interesting to see how the players fare in the moist and cool conditions of San Francisco. The U.S. Open will be played from September 17-20 at historic Winged Foot in Westchester, NY, and in addition to the notoriously tough track there is no doubt that fatigue will be a factor, with such a rigorous FedEx Cup playoff schedule leading up to it—although all of the players are welcoming the challenge (at least for now). Winged Foot is a course that demands perfection and is arguably the hardest course in the open rotation. The USGA strives to make the Open a test of mental strength as much as shot making skill, and this year’s schedule is likely to provide exactly that. The Masters will be played from November 12-15, so the players will have a little time to recover. It will be fascinating to see how Augusta plays in the fall, with cool and windy conditions. Also, the course will play much longer than the players are accustomed to (while the greens should still be nearly as fast). Something tells me that that the scores may be quite a bit higher than we’ve seen in the Spring, and it will be fun to see how the players approach the different challenges.

Ryder Cup

If the Open at Winged Foot isn’t enough excitement for golf fans, the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Haven, WI follows the very next week. Many changes are taking place for the Ryder Cup this year, as Captains will now be allowed six picks—up from the usual four due to the short season with many players not accumulating enough points to qualify in the normal way. Those who have qualified for the U.S. team so far include Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Gary Woodland, Xander Schauffele, and Webb Simpson. For the Europeans, only four players have qualified thus far with Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Victor Perez, and Rory McIlroy securing their spots. As of right now, it’s still up in the air on whether patrons will be allowed to attend. This has caused a bit of early controversy, as the Ryder Cup has come to be synonymous with rowdy, patriotic fans, and a whole lot of heckling. Brooks Koepka in particular has been vocal in opposing a Ryder Cup with no patrons, and has alluded to a player boycott if fans are not allowed to attend (and other stars, including Rory McIlroy, have expressed the same sentiment). Steve Stricker, the Captain for the U.S. team and Wisconsin native, has assured fans that a compromise can be reached, suggesting that a Ryder Cup with 50% patron capacity would be fine by him. We’ll have to wait and see how it all shakes out, but one this for sure—the next six months are going to be fun for golf fans.

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