Oh Ryder Cup, how golf fans have missed you. Two years is too long between visits. When we last saw one another on the outskirts of Chicago the Europeans had just completed one of the most remarkable and improbable comebacks in the history of sports thanks to the inspirational leadership of captain Jose Maria Olazabal who effectively channeled the spirit and charisma of fellow Spaniard the late great Seve Ballesteros. Of course we can’t forget about Ian Poulter either whose standing as the greatest match play golfer of his era was only enhanced after his exploits at Medina. Watching Europe celebrate their come from behind victory on American soil was a disheartening experience for team U.S.A who have waited quietly and patiently for a chance at redemption.
So much has changed since 2012 however that many of the names and faces traipsing about the hallowed grounds of Gleneagles might strike the average sports fan as unrecognizable. After all, the Era of Tiger has been eclipsed by the Reign of Rory and while an injured Woods convalesces on his Jupiter estate, the responsibility of bearing the Stars and Stripes through the Scottish countryside falls on the worldly shoulders of guys with the last names Walker, Reed and Spieth. Team U.S.A is not completely void of veterans as seasoned patriots like Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson continue to wear the red, white and blue with great pride and distinction even if, in the case of Mickelson, the season to date has been a major disappointment.
And before the Europeans run about the local distilleries screaming that the 2014 Ryder Cup is theirs to lose, match play as you know has never been decided on paper and captain Paul McGinley will be rolling out just as many rookies as the Americans. Even if the top of their roster remains a veritable who’s who of the games elite: McIlroy, Garcia, Rose, Stenson, Kaymer, pressure is a tangible thing at the Ryder Cup and expectations can weigh down even the best in the world. The United States has embraced the role of underdogs before and captain Tom Watson would be wise to instill in his team this year a healthy commitment to the mantra ’Us Against the World’.
Now that the people of Scotland have let their voices be heard it’s time for golf fans to choose sides and while rooting interests may vary, what remains consistent regardless of the referendum is a love for match play and the Ryder Cup. Whatever happens at Gleneagles, however these three days in late September play out, memories will be made and passions will be stoked. Because two years is too long.