The golfing world has just about caught its breath after a week in Paris to remember at Le Golf National. Indeed, the 2018 Ryder Cup will go down as one of the best editions of the team event in recent times and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the sporting neutrals who tuned in weren’t inspired to go and pick up a golf club.
The Ryder Cup does take sports fans by storm for many reasons but not least the fact that few would ever expect a golfing event to be the ultimate example of camaraderie in team sports. Golf has rightly never been seen as a team sport because during the 103 weeks that separates a Ryder and Solheim Cup, it is a fierce battle for individual honors. That all gets blown out the water very quickly when the teams meet to do battle in the trenches together.
All forms of social media were abuzz with Ryder Cup fever this past weekend as millions of viewers from around the globe picked a team and became partisan. With that in mind and after having witnessed the far-reaching appeal of the Ryder Cup to even the most remote corners of the globe, will that mean more eyes will be eagerly tuning in when the Solheim Cup takes place at Gleneagles next year? If it doesn’t yet, it really should.
Asking why the Ryder Cup is so popular is like asking how long a piece of string is. In an effort to try and pinpoint exactly why it is, one could start off by saying nothing beats a fierce sporting contest between two nations where no inch is given. That is all well and good but this isn’t England vs France in football at Wembley. This is America, which is made up of 50 states taking on Europe which is made up of 44 countries.
When you begin to do the numbers, you soon realize this is a sporting event that represents over a billion people. Sure, not everyone is going to be watching it, but the rising numbers are there to see with the popularity consistently increasing.
Those are just the people who live in either Europe or America but if you’ve ever been on another continent during the Ryder Cup you’ll soon realize that even the neutrals have a horse in the race. From South Africa to Australia, New Zealand to Argentina and Singapore to China, the bars are full of sports fans that have long since diarised the Ryder Cup.
There are only so many global sporting events that manage to capture the imagination of the world. The Ryder Cup is up there with the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics. These are standout events that don’t come around often enough but when they do, there is a frenzy of interest in them.
The beauty of sport is that there has to be a winner and a loser which heightens the sense of tension before the event. Punters around the world love to call a winner before the action starts but given that the Ryder and Solheim Cups take place over three days, the landscape is always changing which makes the job of predicting a winner much harder.
Very few sports can claim to have that appeal and excitement thrown in. For example and in comparison to other global sporting events, when Oddschecker list the Melbourne Cup betting odds punters are given a clear list of the upcoming favorites like Comin Through and only have to predict what will happen over the course of three minutes. That's not to say that this legendary horse racing event is in any way inferior but in the blink of an eye, it is over, whereas the same certainly can’t be said for these epic team golfing events which take place over 72 hours instead of 180 seconds. For the fans, the appeal lies in the strategy and journey just as much as it does the end result.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Fist bump for the weekend! <a href="https://t.co/BedBCeZ1TG">pic.twitter.com/BedBCeZ1TG</a></p>— Solheim Cup USA🇺🇸 (@SolheimCupUSA) <a href="https://twitter.com/SolheimCupUSA/status/1035930331109617665?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 1, 2018</a></blockquote>
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When so many people have a vested interest in a particular outcome, the weight of competition becomes a lot heavier. The intensity rises and the bubbling expectation rubs off on the players which is why viewers are treated to so such jubilant celebrations. Take Francesco Molinari, for instance, who won the Open this year at Carnoustie and what he had to say about the importance of majors as opposed to Ryder Cups.
Molinari was interviewed on the tee box when Europe had won the Ryder Cup after he beat Phil Mickelson 4&2. Mickelson has just sent his tee shot into the water and that was enough for ‘lefty’ to take off his cap and reach for Molinari’s hand, which prompted wild celebrations. A Sky reporter managed to get through the scrum around Molinari and found the Italian grinning from ear to ear, albeit a bit soaked in alcohol thanks to the celebratory European fans. It was during this interview that Molinari said: "Winning the Ryder Cup meant more than winning any major,", which is all you need to know about the popularity of this timeless event.
When winning golf’s greatest major comes in second to the Ryder Cup, it does send home the message that it’s not just the fans that care, but also the players. Obviously, this won’t be an opinion shared by everyone and, as hard as you might try, you simply can’t imagine Patrick Reed saying that, or any of the Americans for that matter, which is probably why they haven’t won on European soil in 25 years.
There is also a healthy amount of glitz and glamour, which draws in the neutrals. The opening ceremonies are comprised of tailor-made suits, aviator glasses and world-class entertainment, as the Kaiser Chiefs showed when they opened proceedings in Paris. The two captains take to the podium to issue a rallying cry and introduce their teams and then it’s off they go.
As a spectacle, it is marketed extremely well and no stone is left unturned in the quest to get closer to the action or to provide even more in-depth coverage. There’s nothing like it and golf fans will be champing at the bit for the next two years to fly by so they can see this extraordinary team event take place again but the promising news is that they don’t have to wait that long.
If you are one of the millions who go slightly delirious when the Ryder Cup swings around, then you don’t have to wait an agonizing 24 months for another fix. In fact, if you love the Ryder Cup format and blueprint then you only have to wait until early September 2019 when the Solheim Cup takes place.
That should come as extremely good news for sports fans the world over. The Solheim Cup can't be deemed as being any less of a spectacle than the Ryder Cup, given it is the same format and every bit as entertaining. Everything that makes the Ryder Cup the best sporting event in the world also makes the Solheim Cup that too. There is no difference as it's continent vs. continent and played in the same spirit.
The Solheim Cup is famed for its rivalry and out of it and the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup has actually been guilty of the more unsavory incidents in the recent past.
It was back in 2015 in Germany when the US and Europe were locked into a tight four-ball game where, quite literally, it would turn out, no inch was to be given. Suzann Pettersen and Charley Hull were up against Brittany Lincicome and Alison Lee in a game that was all square when the players arrived at the 17th.
Alison Lee had a chance to give the Americans the lead but missed her birdie attempt after sliding it a couple of inches past the hole. The American walked up to the ball and scooped it up with her putter before walking to the final hole to see who would win the game. A fiercely competitive Pettersen was watching this unfold and for some reason or another, she pulled Lee up on a technicality by saying that the putt was not conceded and therefore the Europeans would win the hole by default.
If there was a moment in Suzann Pettersen's life she could take back, it would be that one but, at the time, she cut a very defiant figure as she marched off the green unrepentant and bullish about what she had done. It is a very different story today as Pettersen is now truly remorseful for her actions. It remains to be seen whether Pettersen's contrite tone will be enough for the American fans to let bygones be bygones.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Suzann Pettersen has apologised for refusing to concede a short putt on the final day of the Solheim Cup <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SSNHQ?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SSNHQ</a> <a href="http://t.co/GRpH1j0v1m">pic.twitter.com/GRpH1j0v1m</a></p>— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) <a href="https://twitter.com/SkySportsNews/status/646069341071540225?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 21, 2015</a></blockquote>
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It was a moment that didn’t only bring women's golf to a halt but also the men's game as everyone tried to work out what had happened. The 2017 Solheim Cup in Iowa would give the American fans a chance to let Pettersen feel their wrath but they weren’t given the opportunity as the Norweigan pulled out of the event two weeks before the start, citing a ‘bad back’ as her reason for doing so. Don’t be mistaken, the Solheim Cup dishes up just as many tasty storylines and subplots as the Ryder Cup, which begs the question, will it attract the same amount of viewers next year at Gleneagles?
There always has to be an air of realism when comparing the viewing numbers between men's sporting events and that of women’s. Will the Solheim Cup have the same viewership as the Ryder Cup did in Paris? The simple answer is no but that doesn’t have to be the final answer. It can be a contentious issue as to why women’s sport is neglected by the sponsors and audiences and, when you think about it, you can’t have one without the other.
In the case of the Solheim Cup, there has never been a better time for women’s golf to garner more popularity which will lead to growth in the commercial sector. It seems like an open goal at the moment for the organizers of the Solheim Cup and, in many ways, it is, as the Ryder Cup blueprint is proven to send sports fans around the globe giddy with excitement.
There have already been 15 editions of the Solheim Cup since it started in 1990, so it does have a presence in the minds of sports lovers and, after the epic 2018 duel at Le Golf National and the stir it caused, now is the time to remind everyone that this will be replicated at Gleneagles next year when the Solheim Cup gets underway.
It is a case of when and not if when talking about the Solheim Cup reaching a larger global audience. As a sporting package, it has got everything you could possibly ask for and more. Having just concluded, the Ryder Cup 2018 will still be fresh in the minds of golf and sports fans, which makes the next few months crucial when advertising the upcoming duel between American and Europe in Scotland.
The stage is set, a very talented American team under the captaincy of Juli Inkster will arrive looking to make it a hat-trick of Solheim Cup wins. Standing in their way will be Catriona Matthew and her troops, who will arrive at Gleneagles as the underdogs but golf fans will know that means very little, especially after Europe’s inspiring show in Paris.
The 16th edition of the Solheim Cup has the makings to be one of the most pulsating sporting spectacles to take place in 2019. It also has the potential to send women’s golf into orbit with an untapped global audience just waiting to be captured after having fallen head over heels in love with everything that the Ryder Cup offers. Whether it happens in 2019, 2021 or 2023, the fuse has been lit and the Solheim Cup is waiting to explode on to the world scene.