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The Ryder Cup Will Tee Off Early – Very Early
September 27, 2018  | By Gerald Jordan  | 1 comment

Two seismic Sundays have set the table for a weekend of golf that might very well be one for the ages. Golf? In autumn?

Already the Ryder Cup combatants are talking about the course layout at Le Golf National in suburban Paris. Playing shots into wind-blown landings on putting greens evokes images of The Open Championship played along the links courses of Scotland. At least Paris pretty much guarantees the food will be better by miles.

This biennial battle that pits 12 of the best American golfers against 12 of Europe’s finest actually got a kickstart last month when Tiger Woods’ duel with Brooks Koepka for the PGA Championship attracted a 6.1 rating and 14 share of viewers, making it the highest rating for a Sunday final round of the championship since 2009. As word spread, the final 15 minutes moved the needle to an 8.3 rating and 17 share, evidence that Tiger Woods (top) can still bring in an audience, even though he didn’t win the PGA.

But that was just the appetizer.

When the man who held the top world ranking for 683 weeks finally broke a five-year drought and won the Tour Championship, the heavens opened wide – or so it seemed. As Woods walked to the 18th green Sunday, the course marshals and Tiger’s security team were overwhelmed by a tsunami of a cheering crowd.

The scene was – we might as well call it what it was – Woods-stock.

The TV audience average of 7.18 million viewers peaked at 10.84 million viewers, creating a massive wave on TV screens in the last 15 minutes of the Tour Championship. And similar to Koepka’s victory getting lost in the shadow of Tiger’s near miss, Justin Rose’s $10 million Fed-Ex Cup victory was nearly lost in the shadow of Tiger’s 80th professional tour victory.

Both of those stunning moments in TV golf within the last six weeks have set the table for the Ryder Cup. Think of it as golf being cool again, even though Ryder Cup matches will play out against college football games Saturday and National Football League games Sunday.

The Ryder Cup has a sneaky advantage this year. Because of its European locale, fans can begin chanting U-S-A at 2 a.m. ET Friday when the matches are scheduled to begin on the Golf Channel. By 1 p.m. ET, even the heartiest golf fans will need to rest before another 2 a.m. ET start Saturday on the Golf Channel, turning quickly to NBC at 3 a.m. ET until 1 p.m. ET. Matches are scheduled for a 6 a.m. ET start Sunday on NBC.

The Ryder Cup is worth the sleep loss.

The U.S. team boasts a full roster of 12 players who are ranked in the world's top 25; seven Europeans are in that category. One American was ranked 1,199th in the world in December of last year. Yup, Tiger Woods made the phenomenal march from the rankings wilderness to 13th in the world. And, as the bandwagon loads for this weekend and beyond, chatter already has begun about when Tiger will surpass Sam Snead’s record of 82 victories and – be still my beating heart – the possibility that he’ll catch Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.

First things first.

Five European players are Ryder Cup rookies, and the U.S. team holds a slight statistical edge in putting (where Ryder Cups are won). No team wants to be favored in the Ryder Cup. Players like the underdog role. Something about comebacks, rising from difficulty, Rocky…you get the picture.

The U.S., though is looking to break a 25-year drought of matches played in Europe. A U.S.A. (go ahead and chant it) victory would keep the cup in America’s hands. It’s team golf – matches played by two-man teams in what’s called a four-ball format, an alternate shot format, and match-play singles. Twenty-eight points are available; the first team to 14 ½ wins.

This one should be fun to watch.

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