What Makes The Ryder Cup Such A Special Sporting Event?

There are so many great sporting events around the world, but some are just so special that they stand at the pinnacle of their sports. Whether it is the Super Bowl for NFL Teams, the World Series for the MLB or the World Cup in soccer, there is something extra that these events have.

In the world of golf, it is usually the Majors that are considered as the pinnacle of the sport. However, there are four Majors contested in a standard golf season. Arguably, that makes the biennial Ryder Cup, played once every two years and with just 24 places available to golfers, arguably the pinnacle of the sport for many.

So what is it about this famous competition, which once appeared to be destined for irrelevance in the early 1970s, that invokes such passion, interested and drama? Why do people head over to sites like BetRivers Sportsbook when the tournament is about to start to place a myriad of bets on the outcome of the different matches?

Essentially, what is it that makes the Ryder Cup so special?

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Rarity Of Making A Ryder Cup Team

European team captain Padraig Harrington made a great point to his team members this week when he pointed out that in the history of the competition, which first started in 1927, there have been just 164 different golfers to represent Team Europe (and formerly Team GB & Ireland).

To put that into context, that is fewer people than have been into space (570), swum the English Channel (1881) and considerably fewer than have climbed to the top of Mount Everest (5,780).

Given that there are hundreds of players vying for a spot in either the United States or European team every two years, it is the rarity of being able to play in the event which makes it so appealing to players.

Unpaid Team Event

Every week on tour, the top golfers play for millions of dollars in prize money and their only interest is in how they play and perform.

The Ryder Cup turns this on its head. Not only are the players competing not paid (although being in a Ryder Cup team does make you eminently more appealing to sponsors and you do get your fair share of complementary items) but they are also faced with being part of a team.

For some golfers, that can be tricky to deal with, as Brooks Koepka has admitted already this week. Others, seem to excel in this format of the game, such as Ian Poulter of Team Europe who has been a thorn in the American team’s side for many years. Other players with excellent Ryder Cup records include Tom Kite, Paul Azinger, Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald.

It is perhaps this change of focus from the individual to a team, which best typifies the Ryder Cup spirit and it is also what gives the tournament a genuine edge.

Matchplay Format

There is no doubt in my mind that if the event was held on a strokeplay format, not only would it be far less entertaining and dramatic, but the American team would likely achieve far greater success in the event than they have in recent times. As such, the Matchplay format, where players can win or lose holes, is the key to the tournament’s enduring appeal.

This means if a player has a nightmare on one hole, it may cost them that hole but they are not immediately four or five shots behind their opponent. Instead, they can claw that hole back at some point in the round.

It also makes it much easier for fans to see who is winning each match and does genuinely pit player against player. It doesn’t matter if you shoot a round of 80. If you win more holes than your opponent, then you win the match.


Usually at golf tournaments, crowds are uniquely respectful of almost all golfers (bar a few occasional and rare incidents). At the Ryder Cup, that changes with fans as engaged in the tournament as the players, with cheers (and unfortunately, jeers) for teams and an undeniable advantage to the team playing on home soil.

The crowds are as much a part of creating the tension and atmosphere as the players themselves and there is no doubt that this event has benefitted from being postponed a year, so that crowds, albeit mostly supporting Team USA due to travel restrictions, can attend.


Lastly, what makes the Ryder Cup so special for so many are the many different examples of players having inspirational moments of play, so much so that they can alter the course of not just their game, but the course of the contest.

A great example of this was when Ian Poulter birdied the last five holes for Team Europe at Medinah to claim an unlikely point against Team USA, and that moment was viewed by many as being the inspiration for the surprise European success that followed on Sunday in the singles.

At Brookline, the USA Team were down 10-6 after the first two days, but put together a superb comeback in the singles, securing 8.5 points to snatch an unlikely victory. Team Europe achieved the same turnaround in the dingles at Medinah in 2012.

What makes this so exciting is that in the Ryder Cup, great shots are a given. What doesn’t happen in other golf tournaments is that they are followed sometimes by an even greater shot from an opponent, which adds still more to the spectacle.

So this weekend will likely see equal amounts of perspiration and inspiration for both teams. One will end the tournament holding the trophy aloft, the other will be defeated but ready to try and win the trophy back again in a couple of years’ time.

Remember, you can enjoy a massive range of Ryder Cup betting across Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week at BetRivers Sportsbook, with a wide choice of pre-match and In Play betting markets to pick from.


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