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8 reasons to watch the Ryder Cup

September 27, 2012|RedEye

If you're not into golf, you might not know the Ryder Cup is this weekend. Or that it pits 12 of the best American players against 12 of the top Europeans. Or that it's been held pretty much biennially for 85 years, with this edition being the first time it's in Illinois (Friday-Sunday at Medinah Country Club in Medinah, to be specific).

Still, you might have an inkling that it's a big deal (and that those giant golf balls on Michigan Avenue are related). Let's put it this way: Happy Gilmore would feel right at home at this sold-out event—curse words, wild getups, thunderous crowds and all.

So even if you've never picked up a golf club or can't tell a fourball from a screwball, here are eight reasons to watch the Ryder Cup.

Rivalry!

Whether you're American or European defines who is "us" and "them," of course. Either way, the Ryder Cup is the crown jewel of golf's team events. The rivalry runs so deep that fans boo and shout insults, and the players brace themselves for abuse from the more than 100,000 fans who compose the galleries over the three days.

"I hope that I won't get heckled but if they do [heckle me], you've just gotta stay calm and play the best round of golf," said Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, the top-ranked player in the world. "Emotions run high here, and obviously the majority will be pulling for the American team."

Celebs!

Keep your eyes peeled for Michael Jordan (an honorary U.S. coach), Scottie Pippen, Michael Phelps, Bill Murray and other big names. And Justin Timberlake is serving as the first Ryder Cup ambassador for the Americans; he's been in Chicago all week with fiancee Jessica Biel. Never mind the fact no one knows what his title means or what powers he has.

Pride!

There's no prize money at stake. Zippo. It's all about pride and country—or continent, as the case may be. Not that the players would trade that for the two years of bragging rights if they win.

"I just love this event," said Phil Mickelson, who holds the record for U.S. Ryder Cup appearances with nine. "I have realized over time how much I love the Ryder Cup, how much I love being part of the team and how much I want to play and compete."

Illini! Wildcats!

Steve Stricker, an Illinois graduate, is teeing it up for the American squad, and British player Luke Donald, a Northwestern alum, will represent the Euros. On a related note, if Donald's Northfield home is egged Monday, he'll know why.

Fashion!

If you thought the ridiculous hats at the royal wedding and Wimbledon were out there, wait till you see these—and no, it's not just the European fans. Hats in the shape of putting greens, suits made out of the Union Jack—there's no outfit too bizarre.

Tiger!

Yes, Woods is playing. No, Elin won't be there, but she wasn't exactly a lucky charm even when they were married. He's got an unimpressive 13-14-2 record in this competition. Still, he'll figure prominently in the outcome.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

Er, sort of. The Americans dominated the first six decades of the Cup but have lost six of eight, including 2010 in Wales. Despite the fact the U.S. is the favorite on paper most times, it's anyone's Cup.

Gentlemen? Uh …

At most golf tournaments, players go out of their way to be polite. Not here.

"Ryder Cups, it was all about how badly can I beat this guy; and if I can beat him that bad, let's beat him worse," said Lanny Wadkins, a former participant and captain for the U.S. "If I was going to tell the American team something right now, it would be to get ready to step on their neck and twist your foot."

Said English player Ian Poulter: "There's something about Ryder Cup where you can be great mates with somebody but boy do you want to kill him. It's passion like you've never seen before."

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