- Ryder Cup
The Ryder Cup is a biennial match play tournament played between two teams of professional players representing Europe and the United States of America, with the venue alternating between courses in the US and Europe.
The idea of holding such an event arose in 1921, when a team of American golfers sailed the Atlantic early to prepare for The Open at St Andrews by playing in a warm-up tournament against British professional on the Kings course at Gleneagles. Five years later, a similar group of US players also arrived early to take on a ten-man side at Wentworth shortly before The Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes, with medals again presented to all the participants.
And so it all officially began in 1927 at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts when a Great British 9-man team captained by Ted Ray was trounced 9½ - 2½ by Walter Hagen’s Team USA.
That was back in the days when 36-hole matches were played over two days; foursomes on the first day and singles on the second. Indeed, the first thirteen editions were played like this and it wasn’t until 1961 that games were reduced to 18-holes. Two years later, the format was changed again to include four-ball better ball matches and an extra day’s play.
Organised by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe – which is a conglomeration of the European Tour, the PGA and the Confederation of Professional Golf – the competition has evolved down the years, broadening its appeal through the inclusion of professional players from continental Europe, and this astute move has led to a far more competitive set-up in the modern era.
Some might find it strange there’s no prize money on offer for today’s mega-rich, high-profile players who participate in what’s effectively now a demanding, week-long event for them. As it stands, both teams still compete for just the Ryder Cup Trophy, which was donated by English businessman Samuel Ryder back at the very start of tournament in the 1920s.
Costing around £250, the cup was designed by luxury jewellers Mappin & Webb as a golden chalice with a golfer on top, said to be Abe Mitchell, Ryder’s personal golf instructor and friend. It stands seventeen inches in height, weighs only four pounds, and the wooden base is engraved with the scores of every competition. Quite a few replicas have been made for promotional purposes down the years.
The biggest margin of victory in Ryder Cup history is the 23½ - 8½ win for the US at Champions Golf Club, Houston in 1967. Team US also lays claim to the player with the most appearances (Phil Mickelson with twelve up until 2018) and the oldest player to take part (Ray Floyd in 1993).
In terms of the golfer with most individual points gained, Europe’s Sergio Garcia leads the way with 25½ points and the pairing with the best scoring record is also Spanish – Seve Ballesteros and José María Olazábal combined over the years to produce an impressive 11-2-2 playing record for a total of 12 points.
The Brabazon course at The Belfry has hosted four Ryder Cups (1985, 1989, 1993 and 2002) and another three English layouts have each held the event twice: Southport & Ainsdale (1933, 1937), Royal Lytham & St Annes (1961, 1977) and Royal Birkdale (1965 and 1969). Every edition played in the US has taken place at a different location, though Hazeltine National is scheduled to be revisited in 2028.
As a viewing spectacle, the Ryder Cup is very hard to beat and there have been some epic, close matches in relatively recent times, where one team has just managed to edge out the other by the slimmest margin possible at 14½ to 13½ – who could ever forget “The War on The Shore” at Kiawah Island in 1991, “The Battle of Brookline” in 1999, or “The Miracle at Medinah” in 2012?
Ryder Cup Top 100 Leaderboard