Tiger Woods and the rest of the US team observe the national anthem during the Ryder Cup opening ceremony on Thursday. Photo: Alastair Grant/AP
Tiger Woods and the rest of the US team observe the national anthem during the Ryder Cup opening ceremony on Thursday. Photo: Alastair Grant/AP
Rory McIlroy waves after being introduced as part of Team Europe at the Ryder Cup opening ceremony. Photo: Alastair Grant/AP
Rory McIlroy waves after being introduced as part of Team Europe at the Ryder Cup opening ceremony. Photo: Alastair Grant/AP

The Ryder Cup has had a slowish build-up this week, with Bubba Watson complaining that the Americans were exhausted and not feeling all that great.

There is some virus that is spreading through the US camp, and the travelling from Atlanta – where the Tour Championship was held at East Lake – didn’t help.

Some of the leading European lights such as FedExCup winner Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy made the same journey to the Le Golf National course in Paris.

But Rose said this week that the Europe team felt fresher as only six players featured at the Tour Championship, while 11 out of the 12 Americans participated and then travelled to France.

The whole atmosphere perhaps changed on Thursday, though, as captains Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn announced the pairings for the opening fourballs on Friday – especially with Tiger Woods coming off a long-awaited victory last week.

But does the team event still matter in the bigger picture of the sport?

The four majors have to be regarded as the pinnacle of the sport. Just ask the man with the most majors at 18, Jack Nicklaus, who was quoted as saying by USA Today in 2016: “To me, the competition is incidental.

“Who wins bragging rights – and I know everyone wants to win – but that’s not the important thing. The important thing is the game of golf and people having good relations and goodwill.

“The Ryder Cup to me – we make a little bigger deal out of it than I think should be. I think it’s a goodwill event. It’s a great event to have bragging rights for Europe or bragging rights for America. It’s a great format; it’s a great competition.

“There’s a lot of nice things about it, but I wish we wouldn’t make such a war out of it. I love the Ryder Cup, I loved playing in it, I love being a part of it.

“I said have fun, enjoy it. It’s not a US Open; it’s not a British Open; it’s not a PGA Championship, it’s not a Masters. It’s the Ryder Cup…

“I enjoyed playing the Ryder Cup, but I couldn’t tell you who I played or who I lost to, what my record was or anything else, I have no clue.

“I can tell you what it is in the Masters or the US Open, that’s sort of the way I looked at it. And I think most of the guys who are there are that way.

“It’s a tough event for the top players to get up for. The guys who are just below the top tier, they get so excited because all of a sudden there are brought forth into the spotlight.

“But the guys who are the 1, 2, 3, 4 players in the world, they’re always playing for the major situation. It’s a little harder for them to get excited about it.”

Tiger Woods may have similar sentiments, considering his record at the event – 13 wins, 17 losses and three halves (13-17-3) – compared to 14 majors.

Of course, now that he is one of the vice-captains and back in form, he will be “all in” this week.

But businessinsider.com reported that the US team had played a prank on Woods in the immediate aftermath of his Tour Championship win.

They deliberately gave him the cold shoulder when he was hoping for high-fives and hugs from the “boys”, with the tension eventually cut when they ended the prank.

Would Woods have appreciated something like that?

Well, that is the nature of the Ryder Cup – everything in the name of team camaraderie.

There will be enough American supporters in Paris who will shout “U-S-A! U-S-A!”, and will on their countrymen, while the Europeans will cheer on the likes of Rose, McIlroy and Francesco Molinari.

It will make for great TV viewing too, and the fact that the US haven’t won away from home in 25 years will add to the spectacle.

But while the Ryder Cup will stir up some regional fervour, the majors are what really counts. As Jack Nicklaus said: “It’s not a US Open; it’s not a British Open; it’s not a PGA Championship, it’s not a Masters. It’s the Ryder Cup…”

 

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