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Mulvena: Ryder Cup has both a special history and present

| Friday, September 21, 2018

I know the Ryder Cup isn’t really up there with the iconic American sporting events, but I really think people don’t understand how awesome this event is. I tend to think that the majority of people hate golf because it’s quiet, stuffy and slow moving. The Ryder Cup is the exact opposite of all that. For one tournament, one glorious weekend, golf fans are permitted to stop concealing their emotions and let loose, and the players do as well. All of the bottled up competition and ill-will which quietly builds throughout the year on tour explodes in an amazing fireworks show. A lot of this has to do with the match-play style of the tournament, which pits single players up against each other and increases the competitive aspect of the game. But really, the environment, for the fans and the players, is what makes the Ryder Cup so special. Plus, the golf is top-notch.

With the 2018 Ryder Cup gracing our televisions in just a week, I’ve been brushing up on my Ryder Cup history and reminiscing to matches far before my time and foolishly thinking my takes on those matches hold any credibility. Nevertheless, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at some of the best Ryder Cup pairings in the United States’ team history, and take a shot at claiming one of them to be the best pairing of all time.

The first one that comes to mind for most golf fans is probably Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus, probably held to be the best player in the game’s history by a majority of fans (with Tiger as a close second), and his partner Watson — also a legend of the game — did not lose a single match between the 1977 and 1981 Ryder cups, earning four points for the U.S team over the course of those years. The duo was effectively responsible for two decisive victories for the United States and ushered in an era of success against the Europeans.

There are other groups that come to mind, like Arnold Palmer and Gardner Dickinson, but the only duo that could hold a candle to Watson and Nicklaus has got to be Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. The two young golfers, rivals during the Tour season, come together once every four years to demolish the competition, and when they get on a roll, it’s hard not to be amazed by what you’re watching. They are both enormously competitive and tedious golfers, and the Ryder Cup brings out the best in them. The duo has gained five points for the United States team between the 2014 and 2016 Ryder Cups. The U.S lost to Europe in 2014, but the competition was far stiffer for Reed and Spieth than it was for Watson and Nicklaus. In 2016, Spieth and Reed put on a real show, and I’d venture to say that this win was more important than Nicklaus’ and Watson’s combined, because it ended an era of inferior golf on the part of the United States. And now, it’s safe to say the U.S has more top-tier golfers than Europe.

If I had to pit those two groups up against each other, I’d have to pick Spieth and Reed. For one, their win was more significant in the scope of American golf. Also, if the two groups were to face each other in some alternate dimension, I’d have a hard time imagining Reed and Spieth walking away as losers.

Anyway, the Ryder Cup is a special event, not only in golf, but in all of sports. And I think if even casual sports fans gave the event a chance, they would be more open to accepting golf as a sport that isn’t just “boring.”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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