Ryder Cup: Five things you didn’t know

Ryder Cup: Five things you didn't know
Detail view of the Ryder Cup Trophy during a press conference.

This week at Le Golf National in Paris, 24 of the best golfers in the world will compete in one of the most electric competitions in all of sports: The Ryder Cup.

Every two years, 12 players from the United States square off against 12 players from Europe in a three-day competition that is unrivaled by any other golf tournament.

As the 42nd playing of the event gears up, here are five things you may not have known about the Ryder Cup.

United States vs. who?

The current format of Americans vs. Europeans hasn’t always been the case.

From 1927-1977 it was the United States vs. Great Britain and Ireland, and after decades of American dominance, the event was expanded to include all of Europe for greater competition. How dominant was the U.S.? Team USA was 18-3-1 in 22 events against Great Britain and Ireland and were unbeaten from 1959-1977.

While the 1979 event at The Greenbrier in West Virginia opened the door for European players, the Americans still won, and followed suit in in 1981 and 1983.

Since then, it’s been all Europe. The red, white and blue are just 8-10-1 against the continent across the pond, and have only won on foreign soil twice, both times in England (1981 at Walton Heath Golf Club and 1993 at The Belfry).

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What happens if a player is injured?

Sunday at the Ryder Cup features 12 singles matches, so every player on the team must compete. But what if a player is injured and can’t compete on the final day?

The opposing Ryder Cup captain has the ability to pick one player from his team to not compete in the singles matches. In the event of an injury, that player is then matched with his injured counterpart and the match is recorded as a half.

Before the start of the matches, both captains place the name of their nominated player into an envelope, dubbing it the “Envelope Rule.” It’s a wild occurrence that’s only happened three times since 1979, most recently in 1993.

The most emotional weekend

An event like the Ryder Cup can bring some incredible moments, but few were more moving than the 2006 event in Ireland. Europe’s Darren Clarke, playing on home turf, competed just six weeks after losing his wife to cancer. Overcome with emotion, Clarke wasn’t sure if he’d play well or “like a 36-handicap weekend golfer.” After birdieing his first hole, he went on to win every match he competed in that weekend.

“I didn’t want to go if I was going to be a burden to the team,” Clarke said. “I wanted to go and contribute and be a part of the team. Thankfully at the end of the week I was able to do that.”.

A gentleman’s game, defined

The 1969 Ryder Cup at England’s Royal Birkdale came down to the final match between Team USA’s Jack Nicklaus and Team Europe’s Tony Jacklin. All tied at 15.5 and needing only a half point to retain the trophy, The Golden Bear delivered for the U.S. With a clutch putt.

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He then picked up Jacklin’s marker, conceding the match as a 16-16 tie. Instead of making Jacklin finish out, Nicklaus said he didn’t think it was in the spirit of the game to give Jacklin a chance to miss a two-footer to lose the match in front of his home fans.

Not-so old man Mickelson

At this year’s tournament, Phil Mickelson will compete at 48 years old. He’s the oldest player competing for Team USA, with the next closest being Tiger Woods (42) and Bubba Watson (39). This is far from history, though.

If Mickleson were to be the oldest player to ever compete, he’d need to make the tournament in four years at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome. The then-52-year-old Mickelson would beat out Raymond Floyd, who competed at 51 years and 20 days old in 1993.

Floyd was a captain’s pick that year, 24 years after making his first appearance in 1969, and his 3-1-0 record helped lead Team USA to victory, its last on foreign soil.