The Ryder Cup is one of golf’s most exciting and newsworthy events. Every two years, top professional golfers from Europe and the United States face off in the pinnacle of golfing competition for the coveted eponymous trophy.
While there is no prize money for winning the prestigious golf tournament, the distinction of being a Ryder Cup champion is enough.
There is never any shortage of drama and memorable moments in Ryder Cup history. While you probably know the basics of how the tournament works, there are likely some captivating details about the biennial tournament you haven’t heard before.
Keep reading for some fascinating facts and historical nuggets about the Ryder Cup that will impress your golf-loving friends.
The Trophy Isn’t Actually Given to the Winners
You might assume the winning Ryder Cup team takes home the solid gold trophy to display until the next competition. But that isn’t the case. The authentic trophy always remains at the headquarters of the PGA of Great Britain and Ireland.
Instead, the winning team gets to lift and celebrate with an identical replica at the close of the competition. The original stays put across the pond.
The Concept Was Born Over Drinks
Over a few drinks at his home club outside of London in 1926, English seed merchant and avid golfer Samuel Ryder hatched the idea for a regular match between American and British professionals. Little did he know the biennial competition he launched would grow into one of golf’s marquee global events.
The first official match was held in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1927, and resulted in a resounding 9½ to 2½ victory for Walter Hagen’s USA team over Ted Ray’s Britain.
The 1969 Cup Led to a Tremendous Show of Sportsmanship
The 1969 Ryder Cup ended in a controversial tie when American golfer Jack Nicklaus conceded a short putt to Britain’s Tony Jacklin on the final hole.
With 31 matches completed, it was 15½ to 15½. Jacklin made a monster putt for an eagle on the 17th hole, and both players were 4 under par on the 18th. Jacklin’s putt was two feet short, while Nicklaus’ was five feet beyond. Nicklaus famously bent over and picked up his opponent’s marker and conceded. The subsequent show of sportsmanship became known as ‘the Concession’, which supposedly angered U.S. captain Sam Snead.
The USA Has the Longest Winning Streak
The most consecutive Ryder Cup golf tournament wins is seven, held by the United States team. These seven consecutive wins have occurred twice in the tournament’s history, during the 1935-1955 biennial tournaments, as well as those held from 1971-1983.
There’s Technically No Prize Money
The Ryder Cup competitors aren’t playing for a monetary prize. Bragging rights, glory for their continent and the prestige of the event are the primary motivations. Of course, a triumphant showing can lead to lucrative endorsement deals down the road.
Individual Records Don’t Tell the Full Story
While individual match records get cited frequently at the Ryder Cup, they don’t always indicate how much a player truly impacted the overall outcome.
Nick Faldo made 11 appearances at the Ryder Cup between 1977 and 1997, only hoisting the cup five times, and failed to win when captaining Europe in 2008. However, his individual performances were to behold; his 23 victories are still the most among European top golfers.
Scottish stalwart Colin Montgomerie never lost a singles match, but played on several losing Ryder Cup squads. On the flip side, American Phil Mickelson has just 18 wins against 22 losses, yet featured the most in any Ryder Cup with 12 appearances. His 21½ points are tied for third among American golfers.
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