Ryder Cup: Tiger vs. Rory, US vs. Europe for golf dominance

The Ryder Cup golf matches are taking place this weekend near Chicago. The US will try to wrest control of the 85 year-old Ryder Cup from a determined European squad, led by Rory McIlroy.

Jeff Haynes/REUTERS
A U.S. team golf fan watches play during a practice round at the 39th Ryder Cup golf matches at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Illinois, September 27, 2012.

The 39th edition of the Ryder Cup golf matches between the US and Europe begins Friday at Medinah Country Club, outside Chicago.

The biennial matches, which began in 1927, were the brainchild of Samuel Ryder, who brought top golfers from the US and Great Britain together to compete in team match play.

Over the years, the US has captured 25 Ryder Cups. The team that first represented Great Britain and Ireland began to add golfers from the European continent in 1979, and has won 11 Ryder Cups, with two ties.

The format of the Ryder Cup is a team competition, consisting of two-man alternate shot foursomes and two-man four-ball or best ball Friday and Saturday. In four-ball, each golfer plays his own ball. The player with the best score on any given hole between the twosome is the score that is recorded for his team. Sunday consists of a dozen singles matches. All competition is match play.

The US team is captained by Davis Love III, who has represented the United States in Ryder Cup play in the past. Michael Jordan, a Chicago sports icon and golf enthusiast, will be a special team advisor to Love. Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships in the 1990s. Love and Jordan's friendship goes back to their days as classmates at the University of North Carolina in the early 1980s.

As in the past few Ryder Cups, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will lead the American side. Earlier this week, Tiger shouldered the blame for the US not winning more Ryder Cups in the last few years, reports CBSSports.com.

"Certainly I am responsible for that, because I didn't earn the points that I was put out there for," said Woods, who is 13-14-2 overall, 4-1-1 in singles in the Ryder Cup.

The European team is led by veteran Ryder Cup player and now captain Jose Maria Olazabal. His top player is current world No. 1 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland. Though he's enjoyed a spectacular golf season so far individually, McIlroy says this weekend he just wants to help his side keep the cup.

"This week I'm not the No. 1 player in the world," McIlroy told USAToday.com Wednesday morning. "I'm one person in a 12-man team, and that's it. It's a team effort. There's 12 guys all striving towards the same goal. I'm just part of that."

The Ryder Cup, like the sport of golf itself, has been held up as an example of good sportsmanship. However, in recent years, the level of competition, shot making, and partisan crowd involvement has increased exponentially. Several publications, including USAToday.com, have rated their top 5 Ryder Cups, and most have occurred in the past 30 years.

Medinah Country Club, which was started by Chicago-area Shriners in 1925, has played host to some of golf's biggest events down through the years, including three US Opens, two PGA Championships, and three Western Opens.

The Ryder Cup will be televised over a three-day period. ESPN will broadcast Friday's matches beginning at 8 a.m. Eastern time. NBC will cover all of the weekend action, beginning at 9 a.m. Eastern time Saturday and 12 noon Eastern time on Sunday.

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