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The Ryder Cup's History

By Sam Fels
|  Monday, Sep 24, 2012  |  Updated 6:31 PM EDT
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The Ryder Cup's History

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MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 24: Main entrance to the course during the first preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 24, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

With the Ryder Cup coming to Chicago this week, a study of how the competition came to be is in order. Like any good sporting pursuit, it was born out of both Britain and America trying to prove they were better at something than the other. It's an argument these two have been having for a while, no?

In 1920, a journalist for Golf Magazine proposed the idea to the PGA of America, but it was met with only blank stares and dismissive waves. However, the next year he was joined by someone from the other side of the pond in the suggestion. This added support led to an unofficial competition in 1921 that took place in Scotland. The British won pretty easily. They decided to have a second one in 1926 in Virgina.

This one, also easily won by the Brits, was witnessed by rich, British seed merchant Samuel Ryder. He loved the idea so much he decided to pursue making this an official competition between the PGA of America and that of the UK. A year later was the first official match between the two sides, including some luminaries on the American side like Walter Hagan and Tommy Amour. Ryder donated a golden cup and put his name on it, as well as a promise to give the winning team a small pot of money. And we know that makes the world go round.

And that's how the competition continued until after the second world war. From the years 1947-77, the Briitish side won exactly once. Making things worse, they weren't even coming close. With such dominance, the competition threatened to become irrelevant. To beef it up, one Jack Nicklaus suggested to the Players Association in the UK that it might be a good idea to allow players from all of Europe to partake. It wasn't a coincidence that at the time superstar Seve Ballesteros from Spain and legend Bernhard Langer from Germany were hitting the heights at this point. Just their inclusion in 1979 made the competition actually competitive.

In the 16 occasions since the Europeans joined the party, they've won eight of them. There's been one tie, with the Americans taking seven. They've won four of the last five and five of the last seven. They come in holding the trophy, having won in 2010 in Wales by a solitary point in one of the more dramatic Ryder Cups in the history of the competition.

But in the end, it's still an argument between Americans and the English. Which is fine.

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