Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Way back in 1999, when the dinosaurs
roamed, the Ryder Cup came to life.
Of course, this is one man's opinion, but let me set the scene.
I'm sitting at a racetrack on a Sunday afternoon watching, what else, NFL
football (remember, this was before iPhones and Y phones and all sorts of
other gizmos; a better time, really, if you asked me, but I digress).
At the track, you have the hardcore horse racing fans studying their stats.
You have the hardcore gamblers yelling at the various television screens
showing the NFL games.
You have bookies in the back of the room, standing near pay phones (a what?),
waiting to take bets.
And you have your simple NFL fans watching their teams because they don't have
something called the Sunday Ticket in their houses yet. The Sunday Ticket was
growing in popularity, but was nowhere near as popular as it is today.
And, tucked in the corner amidst a bank of at least 20 television screens was
It looked kind of funny and truly out of place, but somebody at the track must
have been a golf fan and switched it on.
A few hours later, a roar goes up all around the room.
Did every team score a touchdown at the exact same time? Not possible.
Did everybody have 50 bucks on a 100-to-1 shot in the sixth race?
No, Justin Leonard had drained a bomb and a half of a putt to give the United
States a wild win in the Ryder Cup.
That little TV, tucked away with the cobwebs, had everyone's attention. The
moment was one I'll never forget because, put simply, it was cool.
Of course, golf fans will tell you that Leonard didn't win his match against
Jose Maria Olazabal, but that his putt halved the match and gave the U.S. squad
what it needed to win.
Regardless, as in many Ryder Cups, a half point can be huge and Leonard will
always be remembered for what he did.
That "Battle of Brookline" in which the United States came back from an
enormous 10-6 deficit on the final Sunday to win 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 (the closest
score possible without a tie) made the Ryder Cup what it is today, the second
best event in golf (behind only the Masters).
It begins again Friday at famed Medinah, the U.S. squad on its home Chicago
turf. It will be close again because it always seems to be.
Since 1979, the Euros have won the Ryder Cup eight times and kept it another
time with a tie (a tie is as good as a win if you're the defending champ). The
U.S. squad has seven wins in that span. That's pretty darn close.
It will be super charged because the Euros are still peeved about the reaction
of the U.S. team - they raced onto the green at Brookline in 1999 to
congratulate Leonard before Olazabal had a chance to putt - and, many argue,
It will be intense because the Euros are the defending champs and if you win,
you keep the Cup for another two years until we do it again.
And it's just cool because of what's at stake. And what's not.
The best players in the world - Tiger, Phil, Rory - play and live and die with
every match. And they do it, get this, without a purse, although the PGA of
America has and continues to direct millions of dollars to the players'
In an event that makes millions, the players accept that playing for their
country is enough.
Did I write that sentence correctly? Yes, I did. The biggest thing on the line
is pride in your country. It gets no better than that.
So on Sunday, when you're watching your Sunday Ticket, maybe on your iPhone,
take a peek at the Ryder Cup. It'll be worth it.
Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several Philadelphia-area
newspapers for over 25 years.
The Sports Network