Ryder Cup Preview 

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With a history stretching back to 1927, the Ryder Cup is arguably the greatest team event in all of golf. Every two years, it pits the very best golfers of Europe against the top-ranked Americans in a match play tournament, with the two sides alternating as hosts. In 2014, the selected venue for the showdown is in Perthshire, Scotland—the magnificent 18-hole course of the Gleneagles Hotel, which last hosted the competition in 1973.

Preparations for the coming 40th Ryder Cup began in late 2012, just a few months after the 39th edition of the tournament concluded at Medinah Country Club in Illinois. In September, the European team had claimed victory by a score of 14½ to 13½, having overturned a four-point deficit going into the final day’s play. The American side wasted no time in initiating a strategy for revenge, as PGA of America President, Ted Bishop, announced in December his decision to name Tom Watson as the captain for 2014 U.S. squad.

As the first repeat captain for the United States since 1987, Watson played on four Ryder Cup teams and captained the American side to victory in 1993 at The Belfry in England. He will be 65 when the event starts—by far the oldest man ever to fill the role. However, he’s a true veteran of the sport who knows how to win in blustery Scottish weather. On the Champions Tour since 2001, Watson has claimed six major victories, including three Senior British Open Championships held in Scotland in 2003, 2005 and 2007. His most recent success came at the Senior PGA Championship in 2011.

In January 2013, the management of the PGA European Tour met in Abu Dhabi and responded to Watson’s selection by naming Irishman Paul McGinley, 46, as Europe’s captain for 2014. Indelibly remembered for holing the 10-foot winning putt in his Ryder Cup debut at The Belfry in 2002, McGinley was also part of the victorious sides in 2004 and 2006. In 2010 and 2012, he contributed to Europe’s successes as vice captain under Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal, respectively.

In March, Watson announced that he would be revising the 12-man team selection process by reducing the number captain’s picks for the American side from four to three. “Giving our players one more opportunity to earn a spot on merit, I believe, is the right thing to do,” Watson explained at a press conference. “I will use all possible resources in choosing these three captain`s choices to complete the best possible team in order to win the Cup back for the United States.”

Like Watson, McGinley will have three captain’s selections. The qualification system for Europe will begin at the ISPS Handa Wales Open at The Celtic Manor Resort in Wales on 5~8 September 2013. The nine members of the U.S. Ryder Cup Team will be determined following the 96th PGA Championship, 7~10 August 2014, at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.

In July, Watson made another bold move and named Andy North as a vice captain for the 2014 U.S. Team. North, 63, won the U.S. Open in 1978 and 1985. He also represented the U.S. in the 1985 Ryder Cup, and he has worked as a sports commentator of ESPN since 1993. “Andy knows what it takes to close the deal and that’s what we need on the Ryder Cup Team,” said Watson. “I`m certainly happy to have Andy on my side and in my ear helping me make the decisions that will bring this Cup back home from Europe this time. It’s been way too long.”

Meanwhile, ticket sales for the Gleneagles event have been underway since June 2013. There will be three full days of practice, 23~25 September 2014, leading up to the three-day competition on 26~28 September. To gain entry to the event as spectators, golf fans must complete a two-stage process that includes registering a photograph before applying for tickets. Daily tickets range in price from a £10 concession ticket for “Under 16s” on the practice days, to £145 for a Sunday ticket. Various combined ticket options are also available.

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