Ryder Cup: Golf's Most Underrated, but Riveting Tradition

Will Leivenberg@@will_leivenbergFeatured ColumnistOctober 1, 2010

NEWPORT, WALES - SEPTEMBER 30:  Phil Mickelson of the USA tees off during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Scott Van Pelt, renown ESPN host and golf analyst, expressed his discontent over the general underrated nature inscribed in the Ryder Cup.

Between the time difference, other mainstream sporting events taking place, and overall ambivalence towards golf, Van Pelt believed the Ryder Cup would never achieve the same global captivation and intrigue as an event like the World Cup.

But, that doesn't mean this year's Ryder Cup—held in Wales at Celtic Manor—will not warrant such an enraptured audience and won't deliver suspense or struggle or some spectacular story. Both fans and no-nothings of the golf world will engage as spectators in the Ryder Cup; a golf tradition, competition, and battle to the metaphorical death all rapped into one three day brawl.

To grasp the mix of excitement and curiosity infused in this year's Ryder Cup, consider two of the most compelling foursome matches that will open the event.

Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson vs. Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer

For the Americans, undeniably one of the most thrilling duos will be the explosive team of Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson. When these two guys have drivers in their hands they may as well be a stampede of bulls strapped with dynamite.

Their massive length will play to their advantage on the 7400-yard golf course, but the two also are proven clutch short game players as well. 

The two long-ball hitters have their work cut out for them as they face Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, two European players who in this year alone tallied a combined 10 top-10 finishes and four victories.

Both Westwood and Kaymer will be especially tough to beat because, simply put, they don't make many mistakes. Each players' precise nature bodes well for them in the four ball and will be a hurdle the Americans will be lucky to leap over. 

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell vs. Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar

Throngs of European fans will scamper through the soggy golf course in hopes of catching a glimpse of the two Northern Irishmen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. The two share more than a common address, but also the momentum from their substantial success in this season.

McDowell not only won the highly coveted US Open, but also earned another crucial victory at the Wales Open, which was, you guessed it, held at Celtic Manor.

His partner, McIlroy, in addition to winning the Wells Fargo Championship, earned a pair of T3's at the British Open and PGA Championship. Rory has the youth, talent, popularity, and confidence to pump up crowds and a crucial asset to a European victory. But whether or not he can play up the the level of expectation—especially after calling out the biggest cat in the jungle, Tiger Woods—remains yet to be seen. 

But just when you begin second-guessing the US Team of Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar, they have the potential to prove the validity of the old golf adage, 'drive for show, putt for doe.' Cink's luminous victory at last year's British Open, as well as consistently solid track record, portends a potentially brilliant showing at Celtic Manor.

His putting has always been his most reliable, and deadly, resource within his arsenal. Kuchar on the other hand will beat you off the tee, into the green, from the bunker or behind a tree. He's always on the greens.

This is the guy with the most momentum to win PGA Tour Player of the Year, totaling 11 top-10's and one victory this season, not to mention the No. 1 Overall Ranking on Tour. 

This Ryder Cup carries special significance and national pride because while the US Team has not won the Ryder Cup on foreign soil since 1993, they did win the event two years ago at Valhalla.

It has become difficult to decipher just what team has the momentum, but the mystery has generated a tangible intrigue that will consume players and fans alike until that final putt drops.