The word legend, especially in a sporting context, seems to be branded about all the time in social media and newspapers alike. Many times this term is of course justified, other times however it is simply hyperbolic. But Arnold Palmer was a legend. A legend of golf. A legend of sport. A legend of America. During his impressive career, the American managed some phenomenal achievements: seven major titles and 62 wins on the PGA tour, whilst also featuring on seven Ryder Cup winning teams, as a player or in a captaining capacity. Yet, he was a legend for other reasons; for the way he brought golf to the masses in the early stage of televised competition; for the way he graced the game in truly sportsmanship fashion; and, finally, for the longevity of a career which influenced so many golfers, professional or amateur, young or old, American or not.
Naturally, one cannot talk about the late Arnold Palmer without mentioning his brilliant sporting rivalry with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, the ‘Big Three’ as they were then known. This glorious triumvirate of golfers helped revolutionise the game, helping to transform it into the game we know today, and also inspiring other greats such as the late Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods and Rory Mcllroy
The Ryder Cup begins on Friday with Europe seeking to win their fourth successive tournament against USA, in an era which has seen total European domination. Indeed, since the turn of the century, the Europeans have been the victors of half a dozen tournament wins, whilst USA have only one to their name. With Henrik Stenson winning the Open in July, Justin Rose winning the Olympic Gold and Rory Mcllroy winning the FedEx Cup only last week, many of the stars of the European team are in fine form. Having said that, it must be acknowledged that the make-up of the European team is a blend of stars and rookies. Alongside some of the aforementioned stars of the European team, are experienced players – and former Ryder Cup winners – Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer. The rest, however, despite their golfing abilities, are rookies, including four English debutants – Matthew Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan, Danny Willet and Chris Wood. Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Thomas Pieters complete the line-up.
USA, by contrast, have only two debutants: Ryan Moore and Brooks Koepka. Whilst their team is glittered with plenty of stars and experience. Phil Mickelson will be playing in his eleventh Ryder Cup. The likes of Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson will also add to a stellar line-up of American golfers who, on their day, are capable of beating anybody. The emergence of Jordan Spieth over the last couple of seasons is an example of a young, but extremely talented, golfer, much needed after the capitulation of the era of Tiger Woods which has had to see new blood being drawn into the team. The other American players are: Rickie Fowler, JB Holmes, Matt Kuchar, Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker and Jimmy Walker.
The captains for the two sides are the much respected Darren Clarke and Davis Love III. Rory Mcllroy has been singing the praises of his captain, saying that “I’ve always wanted the win for the captain, but probably even more so this year because of Darren and the relationship we have”. Davis Love III has been reflecting on the life of Arnold Palmer this week and will be aiming to use it as inspiration, much the same way as the Europeans did at the miracle at Medinah, in the spirit of ‘Seve’. The American captain has been amongst the many to pay their tributes when he said that “he was my inspiration as a golfer, a role model as how to act as a professional.”
The format of the tournament goes thus: There are four foursome matches on both Friday and Saturday whilst singles matches take place on the Sunday. Each match is worth one point, with a draw meaning each team gain half a point each. There are 28 points up for grabs. Europe only need 14 to retain the Ryder Cup, as defending champions, whilst USA need 14 and a half to regain the tournament.
As always, the atmosphere should be electric. The Ryder Cup seems to bring the best out of golf. Rivals become teammates. As it is hosted in America, the home side will undoubtedly have the advantage. Time-difference will be a factor when watching. 22 of the world’s best golfers will be in score, in a tournament which is the pinnacle of the career for some. If it is played in the spirit and life of the late Arnold Palmer, then one thing is for sure: nobody will be able to claim that it is dull.
Photo Credit: AFP