Listen to Seattle Sports: M's-Royals live on Seattle Sports

Europe: Team without a country but many wins at Ryder Cup

Sep 23, 2021, 10:51 AM | Updated: 11:56 pm
Team Europe fans cheer during the opening ceremony for the Ryder Cup at the Whistling Straits Golf ...

Team Europe fans cheer during the opening ceremony for the Ryder Cup at the Whistling Straits Golf Course Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Sheboygan, Wis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) — A few things have changed since the last time Europe and the United States gathered for the Ryder Cup.

For one, Europe.

In the post-Brexit world, seven of Europe’s 12 players aren’t technically from countries in the European Union anymore. But for decades now, this band of brothers has figured out how to set aside politics, paper over their differences, break down barriers and, more often than not, come together to win one for the home team.

Every two years — three in this case — natives of Britain and Spain and Ireland, sometimes France or Germany and, for the first time this year, Austria, leave their houses — often in Florida, sometimes in Arizona — pull their blue European-Union scarves out of their drawers and act like they’ve been best friends for years. In a lot of ways, they are. They’ve won the Ryder Cup four of the last five times.

Meanwhile, 12 U.S. golfers come together, put on the red, white and blue, rally around the stars and stripes, incite chants of “USA USA” and try to win one for America. It’s worked a grand total of three times since 1995.

It’s one of the great conundrums of the Ryder Cup, where Europe begins its title defense Friday at Whistling Straits. One team plays for its country and doesn’t fare so well.

The other?

“We play for each other,” explained Rory McIlroy, a product of Northern Ireland and one of the seven players, the rest of them from England, who are no longer officially members of the EU. “I think that’s the best thing you can do.”

That explains some of it.

Other reasons go deeper.

The Ryder Cup was a dying enterprise in the late-70s, no longer competitive between the best America had to offer against top golfers from Britain and Ireland, which had about one-fourth of the population from which to draw and nobody close to the caliber of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Hale Irwin or Raymond Floyd.

Several people, including Nicklaus, floated the idea of expanding the opposition to include all of Europe. Seve Ballesteros of Spain latched on and never let go. That started in 1979. And so, a new team was born out of the old continent.

“Pretty straightforward. Seve,” European captain Padraig Harrington said when asked who, or what, the Europeans actually have rallied around for all these years. “He pushed for this to become continental, and it was a way for Seve to legitimize the European Tour.”

The European Tour certainly had, and still has, an underdog feel to it, and Ballesteros was on the front lines of a charge to prove that the Euros could stand toe to toe with Americans, whose tour had more money, more exposure and more talent.

Point made. Since the change in 1979, Europe has brought the cup back to the continent 12 of 20 times.

But in a sign of how things have changed over the decades, the top two places on today’s European Tour points list are held by Collin Morikawa (who is at Whistling Straits this week) and Billy Horschel (who is not). They are a pair of Americans whose finishes in majors, World Golf Championships and, in Horschel’s case, a side trip to the European Tour itself, have vaulted them above the regulars in the standings.

Meanwhile, all but one of the 12 players on Europe’s Ryder Cup roster (Brand Wiesberger), are regulars or semi-regulars on the PGA Tour in the U.S.

And yet, they come to the Ryder Cup every other year, grasp firmly onto the underdog role that Ballesteros cultivated so well, produce a few cheeky social-media videos and act as though they’ve been playing together for years.

Only two short months ago, five of these same players, including McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood, were competing for Olympic gold medals in Tokyo and wearing their own countries’ colors.

This week, they’ll wear brown and white, or maybe green and gold — they donned the colors of the Green Bay Packers to try to gin up some love from the American fans one day in practice — and come together as one.

“I honestly have no idea,” Ireland’s Shane Lowry said when asked why the bond between all these players from different countries remains so strong. “But when you enter that team room, there’s almost like — something just hits you.”

One of Harrington’s themes this week was expressed in a video he put out, emphasizing that only 164 players have had the honor of competing for the European side in the Ryder Cup. More people have climbed Mount Everest and gone into space, the video pointed out.

Another video played at the opening ceremony featured 2018 European captain Thomas Bjorn of Denmark stating the obvious.

“We have different cultures and background and we believe in different things,” he said.

And yet, continued Germany’s Bernhard Langer, when they come together, magic happens.

Soon after, the announcer in the stadium asked everyone to rise for a rarely used tribute — the playing of the anthem of Europe.

What’s that, you ask?

Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”


For more AP golf coverage: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Toronto Blue Jays' Whit Merrifield hits a three-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the ...
Associated Press

Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night. The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Houston’s defense makes 2 big plays late in win over Rice

HOUSTON (AP) — Nelson Ceaser returned a fumble for an 11-yard score with 3:34 left in the fourth quarter and Thabo Mwaniki intercepted a tipped pass on the next possession as Houston beat Rice 34-27 on Saturday to retain the Bayou Bucket for a record seventh consecutive time. Houston pinned Rice at its 6-yard line […]
19 hours ago
Milwaukee Brewers' Hunter Renfroe hits a two-run home run during the fifth inning of a baseball gam...
Associated Press

Renfroe homers twice, drives in 5 in Brewers’ rout of Reds

CINCINNATI (AP) — Hunter Renfroe hit a pair of two-run homers and drove in a season-high five runs, leading the Milwaukee Brewers to their fourth straight win, 10-2 over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday. Renfroe’s shots boosted Milwaukee’s homer count against the Reds this season to 42, tied with the 2016 Cubs for the most […]
19 hours ago
Michigan State coach Mel Tucker watches from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college...
Associated Press

Takeaways: After rush to give Tucker megadeal, MSU slips

Michigan State blew up the market for college football coaches last year by giving Mel Tucker a massive 10-year contract as the Spartans charged out to a 9-1 start in his second season. It was a bit puzzling at the time. Tucker’s overall record as a head coach was 16-13 at that point, covering not […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Kennesaw St. wins battle of winless teams, 24-22 vs. Wofford

KENNESAW, Ga. (AP) — Jonathan Murphy rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns, and he also passed for 107 yards as Kennesaw State won the battle of winless teams, topping Wofford 24-22 on Saturday. Kennesaw State (1-2) led 24-9 early in the fourth quarter before Wofford got within two points with 6:08 remaining on Nathan […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Payton’s 3 TD passes lead Mercer over Gardner-Webb 45-14

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. (AP) — Fred Payton threw three touchdown passes and Mercer rolled to a 45-14 victory over Gardner-Webb on Saturday night. Payton was 15-of-23 passing for 187 yards. He threw a pair of touchdown passes to Devron Harper and one to Drake Starks. Harper made eight catches for 109 yards and added 64 […]
19 hours ago
Europe: Team without a country but many wins at Ryder Cup