I trust that the effect of this match will be to influence a cordial, friendly and peaceful feeling throughout the whole civilized world. I look upon the Royal and Ancient game as being a powerful force that influences the best things in humanity.
- Samuel Ryder
While announcing a tournament format which was at first eyed skeptically, Ryder could have never envisaged the magnitude of excitement it would hold for the golfing faithful for years to come. Although it’s no more the game which would revolve around the upbringing of a civilized world, but a tournament where the millionaires of the game attempt to neglect their individualist streak for a certain collective honor.
A competition which has been grabbing attention from every possible corner of the globe, the modern-day Ryder Cup generates an influx of cash as good as a Major tournament – only this jackpot is traded between the two sides every couple of years. Whatever estimated profits it may yield this time around, players can only whine about not getting paid for this tournament. When even the most redundant of PGA or EPGA event currently has an attractive prize money to lure the pros, Ryder Cup has been and will probably be a fortune-maker for the local economy. Of course, a sum of $200,000 will be paid to a charity chosen by every player, but when treated like royalty for a weekend where they give their all for their respective sides, earning absolutely nothing is just a shame for every professional. Giving something back to the society, this is something they’re compelled to deal with by the tour every time around.
Hunter Mahan did reveal a side of the conflicts between the players and tour few years back.
“At some point the players might say, ‘You know what? We’re not doing this anymore, because this is ridiculous’,” said Mahan. “Mickelson and Tiger – their time is worth money. Is it an honour to play? Yes, it is. But time is valuable. This is a business.”
It’s not just the prize purse that has been pivotal to creating unwanted buzz around the tournament but also the level of commitment from the players that has been questioned by a large set of fans and critics for many years now. Tiger Woods hasn’t been a part of a Ryder Cup winning team since 1999 and his record of fourteen defeats in six appearances doesn’t even reflect an ounce of the class he’s known to carry on the course. Davis Love, the US captain, has been busy all week defending the World No.2, assuring everyone who listens to him that this may be the year when Tiger does more than just intimidating his own partners in the foursomes. Although Woods’ return to the tour has been generally uplifting, it still demands a symbolic win to impose his fading dominance on the sport all over again. This week at the Medinah Country Club in Illinois certainly provides him another chance to conquer the ghosts of the team events. In fact, if we finally witness a singles face-off between a hungry Tiger at home and McIlroy, something Rory has been looking forward to, the spectators would finally get that fitting ingredient to pump up the already feisty atmosphere one expects on the Ryder weekends.
However, it’s not just the elite list of golfers that would be under the spotlight. This time around, the US cadre also has a wild card known as Michael Jordan in their ranks. Although Jordan certainly looks to be caught in the unknown, he does have some experience to be a part of Presidents Cup team of the US in 2009. If Davis Love was looking for some viable options to amp up some team spirit in his side, then with the inclusion of Michael Jordan, he looks to have done his homework alright. Jordan has been included to be a comforting presence at the course around the players who’d certainly need more than just words to restore the momentary lapse of confidence on the road to a victory that will need some doing against the mighty European side. Also, the charisma that Jordan exudes, even a small pep-talk or a candid conversation can turn out to be more than just motivational, especially with the four debutants in the US team. Even with the constant media attention that Jordan is bound to garner in the weekend, this particular move from Love could prove to be the decisive slam dunk in this particular battle royale of golf.
Amid the entire hype that this tournament has been saddled with in the past couple of decades, one cannot discount the sense of close competitions we have been treated to over the course of time. The format of this contest was surely not devised by a sadist and that it still gives us more than a few roars when we switch on our television sets, only strengthens the fact that this expansive opera does have a subplot which tries to fill our memories with some quality golf. It would probably never serve the moments reminiscent to what Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin shared at Royal Birklade or the unending feuds of Seve Ballesteros and Paul Azinger. Yet, golf would thankfully be something that brings endearing satisfaction, if not outright moments of joy in the coming few days.