By Rahul Banerji
Ryder Cup week is here. As is the Asia Cup which means it’s golf versus cricket on television screen. In some parts of the world. In others, life goes on.
The slightly farcical continental event is playing out in stadiums at Abu Dhabi and Dubai with its lopsided qualifying and loaded itinerary.
The intent, as always, is to try and squeeze the most out India-Pakistan games. Which is why every attempt was made to ensure India get to the final without too much fuss, and Pakistan too arrive in due course. Hioefully.
The team that played the most attractive cricket at the Asia Cup – Afghanistan – are not in the picture having lost two desperately close matches. Sadly.
On the golf course, the 42nd edition of the biennial Ryder Cup pitting defending champions America against Europe tees off on Friday at the Le Golf National in the Paris suburb of Guyancourt.
Ryder Cup matches will be telecast live on D Sport, a Discovery Channel arm. Coverage starts from 11.30 am for the first two days, and from 3.30 pm on Sunday. All times are in IST.
The hosts – led by FedEx Cup playoffs winner Justin Rise — are widely expected to regain the trophy they have won seven times in the last 10 matches.
Standing in the way, though, is the resurgent Tiger Woods.
The Big Cat’s return to the winner’s circle on Sunday in Atlanta has fired up even more interest in the contest, and a great deal of speculation centres around how much America will rally around him.
Woods was alternately inspirational and clinical in his two-shot win at East Lake over all four days of the Tour Championship and US captain Jim Furyk will be relieved as the rest of his unit looked off-colour at Atlanta.
But what is the Ryder Cup? And who or what was Ryder?
Two unofficial matches between professionals from Great Britain and the United States, both won by the British, preceded the actual competition, and the European Tour website has a few more details about how it all started.
The first match was at Gleneagles in 1921 but the second, at Wentworth in 1926, was the more significant for among those in the gallery was a man called Samuel Ryder.
Says europeantour.com, “Ryder was an English seed merchant and entrepreneur from St Albans in Hertfordshire who made his money selling penny seed packets.
“He had taken up golf relatively late in life to improve his health and employed Abe Mitchell, one of the golfing greats of his era, as his personal tutor.
“Ryder was enthralled by the match at Wentworth, and particularly delighted to see Mitchell team up with George Duncan to defeat the defending Open champion Jim Barnes and the great Walter Hagen.
‘We must do this again’, said Ryder in the bar afterwards and The Ryder Cup was born.
“Ryder donated a small but striking gold cup that today epitomises all that is good in sporting competition. It cost £250 and the small golfing figure atop the cup, as requested by the donor, stands as a lasting memorial to Abe Mitchell.
“The first 22 Ryder Cup matches pitched Great Britain and Ireland against the United States, with the US winning 18, GB and Ireland three and one match, the famous 1969 contest, tied.
“In 1979, Europe entered the fray, with Seve Ballesteros and Antonio Garrido becoming the first continental golfers to play in The Ryder Cup. In the subsequent 16 matches, Europe have won eight, the United States seven, with one match tied.”
To be honest, before dipping in for some background, I had just the vaguest idea of golf’s most storied tournament. So to Jack Ryder and his vision, please join me in a small toast!
The event tees off on Friday morning at 8.10 am Paris time with the four four-ball and foursomes matches that spill over to Saturday.
Sunday is reserved for the singles, which more often than not, decide which side of the Atlantic the trophy will reside for the next two years.