Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ryder Cup Ryder Cup Oohhh Ryder Ryder Cup

That post title was to the tune of "Lollipop" by the Chordettes. In this music video, the guy plucking his cheek to create a popping sound at 0:25, 0:39, 1:05, 1:32, and 1:59 is my grandfather, Heraclitus Popinjay Ryan:

Man, that video is absolutely brutal to watch. I wish I hadn't posted it. But now I did, and I have to move on to the next thing. Why? Because I'm like a shark, constantly moving. A vicious, mean shark, but with a surprising sweet side. So sweet, in fact, you might say he's like a...lollipop.


Okay, Ryder Cup. I can't tell you how excited I am to wake up at about 4am tomorrow to watch the proceedings from Wales. That's no joke. It's very possible I'll wake up, turn on the tv, and fall right back asleep. But there will be at least one moment in the pre-dawn hours when I make an attempt to watch golf. There's something about the team aspect, U.S. vs. Europe, combined with a highly individual game, that pushes all the right buttons for me. Plus, golf is beautiful to watch, especially when it's in Europe. I have no idea if Celtic Manor is a cool course or not, but if it's anything like the British Open links courses, I'll be pleased. More than any other sport, golf has a mystic side. When you throw some old world vs. new world drama into the mix, I find it pretty irresistible.

Ryder Cup Fact #1: After the first 19 Ryder Cups, the United States was 16-3. But in those days, it was just U.S. vs. Great Britain. So in 1973, in an attempt to become more competitive, Great Britain added Ireland to their team. The U.S. promptly won the next 3 to up their all-time record to 19-3. Then, in what I imagine as desperation, Great Britain and Ireland added all of Europe for the 1979 Cup. Again, the U.S. won 3 straight, making them 22-3. But instead of adding Africa, or something, Team Europe stayed patient. It paid off- since 1985, they're 8-4 against the Yanks, and Team Europe's all-time record against the U.S. is positive at 8-7.

Ryder Cup Fact #2: In 1993, the U.S. nipped the European team 15-13 at the Belfry in Warwickshire, England. Since then, we haven't won on European soil. That's 17 years without a road victory. Even the Pittsburgh Pirates aren't that bad.

Ryder Cup Fact #3: Jack Nicklaus pulled one of the all-time classy moves in 1969. Read up on it here.

If you want to learn a little more about the Ryder Cup, check out the wiki page or this nice article by Gene Wojciechowski on ESPN.

One of my favorite wrinkles about the Ryder Cup is that the captains choose their pairings blindly, meaning that they have no idea who their team might play. In other words, Team USA captain Corey Pavin will have to select four pairs of golfers to go out tomorrow morning. Maybe he'll pick Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to go first, and then Hunter Mahan and Phil Mickelson. Who knows? But he has to pick the order in which they'll play, and in the meantime Colin Montgomerie does the same thing. Then the two picks are submitted, and the teams are matched up. It creates some awesome dynamics.

Here's the format of the Ryder Cup: there are 28 matches played, and 1 point for every match. Since the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup, they only have to earn 14 points. If it ends in a 14-14 tie, the U.S. retains the Cup. Team Europe needs 14.5 points to take the Cup.

Each match is contested using what's called 'match play.' Every hole a team wins is worth +1 in the match. If a pairing from Team USA wins the first 3 holes with a better score, they'll be "3 Up." If Europe wins the next two holes, USA will be "1 Up." When a match is tied, it's called "All Square." The goal, clearly, is to win the match. If Team USA is up 4 holes, and there only 3 to play, they win the match 4&3 since it would be impossible for Europe to make up the margin. The most you can win a match is 10&8 (up 10 holes, only 8 holes to play). If a match is tied after 18 holes, it is "halved," and each team gets a half point.

Bonus Ryder Cup vocabulary: when one team is up by the exact number of holes left on the course, such as 4 up with 4 left to play, they are "dormie." A dormie team only needs to half the next hold in order to win the match. Here's where that word comes from:

Dormie comes from the word "dormir," which shares a French and Latin origin. "Dormir" means "to sleep." "Dormie" means that a player has reached a match-play lead that is insurmountable - and so the player can relax, knowing that he cannot lose the match. "Dormir" (to sleep) turns into "dormie" (relax, you can't lose).

Here's the schedule:

Friday Morning: 4 points at stake in "Fourball." In Fourball, all four players play each whole, and the team gets to keep its best score. So if Tiger Woods and Steven Stricker are teammates, and Tiger shoots a 9 while Stricker shoots a 3 on hole #1, Team USA gets a 3.

Friday Afternoon: 4 points at stake in "Foursomes." In Foursomes, teammates alternate shots. So if Tiger hits a drive into the woods, Stricker has to play it from the woods on shot #2. This is my favorite part of the tournament, since teammates have to depend on each other to such a huge extent.

Saturday Morning: 4 points at stake in Fourball.

Saturday Afternoon: 4 points at stake in Foursomes.

Sunday: 12 points at stake in singles. All 12 players from both countries will be on the course Sunday, and the action is pretty constant. As long as the teams are still fairly close after Saturday's action, this is one of the best sportsdays of the year.

That explanation may have been largely unnecessary or unwanted for you, in which case I apologize. I'm just having trouble containing myself over here. I might do a live/tape-delayed blog on Sunday if things are still close.

Meantime, the Yanks are still somehow in the divisional race despite losing 2 of 3 to Toronto. Check out our record against AL East opponents this year:

Tampa: 8-10
Toronto: 8-10
Boston: 8-7 (3 to play)
Baltimore: 13-5

Minus the Orioles, who we were lucky enough to play most of our games against before Showalter made them decent, that's a pretty dismal record. 24-27, with three to play. There's a decent chance we'll be .500 or below against our three main AL East opponents.

Speaking of not winning the big ones, Spike sent me an e-mail this morning about the CC Sabathia Cy Young campaign. You might know Spike by now, and if not he's a Mariners fan who will probably go on a psychotic rampage if Felix Hernandez doesn't win the Cy Young. The morning e-mail was a subject line and nothing else: 10 of CC's 21 Ws against BAL, KC and SEA.

There you have it, folks: Over half of CC's wins have come against quality* opponents.

*Quality = not the three worst teams in the league.

This is the last weekend of regular season baseball, and unfortunately it looks like most of the drama is gone. All four teams in the AL are set, and Atlanta and San Francisco are dangerously close to clinching in the NL. Only San Diego can play spoiler. The good news is that they have 3 left against San Francisco starting Friday, so at the very worst they'll at least have a shot to sweep and end in a tie. It's always kinda sad when some team that usually isn't good has an awesome season and then fades right when things start to get interesting. It'd be fun to see Lincecum in the playoffs, but you gotta feel bad for the Pads.

In the AL, the only interesting wrinkle is who will win the East. The Rays go up against Greinke tonight, and if they lose it'll be a dead heat entering the weekend. Unfortunately we have Boston while they have Kansas City, but I'll take those odds. The way the Yanks have been playing lately, it's a wonder the bad guys aren't up 4 games.

It's a nice weekend for college football two, with Florida-Alabama and Stanford-Oregon meeting in top ten battles. Predictably, they're both on at eight, which is annoying, but at least it lets me watch them in their entirety despite NBC's maddening decision to tape delay Ryder Cup coverage.

That's it for the morning. Pick Six tomorrow, including our first ever audio rant. I hope your Thursday is as sweet as a lolli- OH DAMN NO I DIDN'T MEAN TO-


  1. Honestly, the Ryder Cup seems worse the more I understand. Which, to be fair, is still not very much.

  2. It's an acquired taste.