Wednesday, September 20, 2006

20 Things You Might Not Know About the Ryder Cup

This Friday, Ireland will be the center of the golf world as the biennial Ryder Cup competition pits the top American golfers against their European counterparts. The K Club in Straffan, County Kildare will be home to the match play proceedings. To make you fully informed about the event, here are 20 things you might not know about the Ryder Cup.

The Ryder Cup competition officially began in 1927. The trophy was so named because it was shoplifted from Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills.

The U.S. originally competed against Great Britain, with Ireland and the rest of Europe added in 1973 and 1979, respectively. Unlike many celebrities who grew in the 1970s, the Ryder Cup never did any jail time.

The Americans dominated Ryder Cup play through 1983, going 21-3-1. However, since then Europe is 6-3-1. The reversal is largely attributed to the 1984 release of The Karate Kid, as the underdog Europeans drew inspiration from Daniel-san’s triumph over adversity. In 1985, team captain Mr. Miyagi guided them to victory.

Ten competitors on each side are automatic qualifiers based on points they have earned in tournaments. Each captain chooses his remaining two players. As a matter of tradition, one captain’s choice is always the winner of the swimsuit competition.

In honor of the host nation, a wrinkle has been added for Sunday’s singles matches. Whenever a competitor loses a hole, that golfer must down a shot of Irish whiskey.

In addition to singles competition, there are team-oriented fourball and foursomes matches. These matches always appealed to American Fred Couples, since swinging Couples are into foursomes.

The women’s equivalent is the Solheim Cup, while U.S. amateurs take on their Irish & British counterparts in the Walker Cup. Golf-playing horses compete against each other in the Breeders’ Cup.

European team captain Ian Woosnam is affectionately known as Woosie. With a Captain Woosie, Europe is different from the Exxon Valdez, which had a woozy captain.

The incomparable Tiger Woods is only 7-11-2 for the U.S. in Ryder Cup matches. Europe’s Colin Montgomerie and Sergio Garcia, both winless in majors, have excelled in Ryder Cup competition. Therefore, Monty and Sergio have appealed to British Open officials to adopt a team format.

The most surprising Ryder Cup was in 1987, when the U.S. fell 15-13 to Europe. Not the continent, but the popular hair band. Their victory paved the way for “The Final Countdown” to be played before sporting events everywhere.

Sweden’s Robert Karlsson will enjoy a major advantage at The K Club. According to club rules, any player whose name begins with a K may take one mulligan per match.

The Americans’ last victory in 1999 sparked controversy. Justin Leonard’s dramatic 45-foot putt caused a wild celebration, even though José Maria Olazábal had yet to attempt his own difficult putt (ultimately missed) that could have kept Europe alive. To avoid the risk of another excessive celebration, Chad Campbell has replaced Chad Johnson on the U.S. team.

After a 14 ½ to 13 ½ defeat in 1997, U.S. captain Tom Kite was blistered by critics for not adding Happy Gilmore to the squad.

In 2004, Europe routed the U.S. 18 ½ to 9 ½ at Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan. After dominating at Oakland, the European team was made an honorary member of the AFC West.

Ireland’s Paul McGinley will play in his third consecutive Ryder Cup. In 2008, he will likely be replaced by John C. McGinley if Scrubs is off the air.

The Ryder Cup was postponed from 2001 to 2002 after the September 11 attacks. The event was also delayed in 1981 due to sabotage on the course by groundskeeper Carl Spackler.

J.J. Henry will make his Ryder Cup debut for the U.S. team. K Club officials expect a large turnout of North Carolina and Maryland fans, always eager to chant “J.J. Sucks!”

U.S. captain Tom Lehman plans to play Michigan receiver Mario Manningham against Ireland’s Padraig Harrington. Manningham has proven that he can dominate the Irish.

Golf’s genteel culture discourages the Ryder Cup victors from emulating the Stanley Cup celebration, in which each member of the winning team carries the trophy around the rink. Besides, the skates would totally ruin the 18th green.

If the competition ends in a 14-14 draw, Europe retains the Ryder Cup. However, a team must win outright for its members to earn a free Grand Slam Breakfast at Denny’s.