The Ryder Cup is back — here's what you need to know
Golf's most dramatic team event tees off Friday
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The Ryder Cup is back
Golf's always-riveting team battle between the United States and Europe is usually held every two years, but the gap widened to three this time because of the pandemic. It should be worth the wait. Here are a few things to know as the 94-year-old event tees off Friday at 8 a.m. ET at Whistling Straits, a links-style course in Wisconsin:
How it works: Both teams have 12 players. The U.S. took the top six in a special rankings system and added six picks by captain Steve Stricker. Europe awarded nine automatic spots, plus three picks by captain Padraig Harrington. The captains don't play. Their job now is to make the pairings for the 2-on-2 matches, then basically drive around in a golf cart trying to boost morale. They'll get too much credit if their team wins, and too much blame if it loses. The competition takes place over three days. Friday and Saturday features two types of 2-on-2 matches. In "four-ball," everyone plays his own ball and each team takes its lower score. The team with the lowest score wins the hole. In "foursomes," the players on each team alternate shots and the team with the best score wins the hole. In Sunday's closing "singles" matches, all 24 players square off head-to-head with an opponent for 18 holes. All of these are match play — the winner of each hole gets one point, a tie is worth half a point, and it doesn't matter how many strokes you win or lose a hole by. A total of 28 points are up for grabs, so the first team to 14½ wins. If it ends 14-14, the defending champion (Europe) retains the Cup.
Nine of the top 10 golfers in the world rankings are playing. World No. 8 Louis Oosthuizen is South African, so he's not invited. World No. 1 Jon Rahm plays for Europe. The other eight are American — in order of world ranking, Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka. The U.S. team also includes three-time major winner Jordan Spieth. After Rahm, Europe's highest-ranked players are No. 14 Viktor Hovland and No. 15 Rory McIlroy. Captain Harrington is leaning heavily on guys past their prime, including 48-year-old Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter (45), Paul Casey (44) and Sergio Garcia (41).
So the U.S. should definitely win, right? On paper, the Americans are clearly the better team — chock-full of great young players who can pound any course into submission. They include six major champions and the winners of this year's British Open (Morikawa), Olympic men's gold medal (Schauffele) and FedEx Cup (Cantlay). They're also playing at home and the betting odds imply they have about a 60 per cent chance of taking back the Cup. But Europe has the consensus best player in the world (Rahm, who won the U.S. Open this year) and a historical knack for winning this event. Despite usually being the clear underdog, Europe has taken seven of the nine Ryder Cups played so far in this century. One of the theories for this is that the Europeans always have much better team spirit. Sure enough, one of the big storylines leading into this year's event is that two of the Americans — Koepka and DeChambeau — absolutely despise each other.
Evander Kane was cleared by the NHL of betting on games, but now he's facing other accusations. The league announced yesterday that its investigation turned up no evidence of the San Jose Sharks forward gambling on NHL games and/or trying to throw contests involving his own team, as his estranged wife alleged on Instagram during the summer. But the NHL is now looking into allegations of sexual and physical abuse made by Anna Kane in a restraining order application filed in a California court this week. Through his lawyer, Evander Kane denied abusing his wife or their daughter. Read more about the investigations involving Kane here.
Georges St-Pierre is about to become the first Canadian in the UFC Hall of Fame. Considered by some to be the greatest mixed martial arts fighter of all time, GSP went 26-2 as a pro and was a two-time UFC welterweight champ. In 2017, he came back from four years away from the octagon to capture the UFC middleweight belt before retiring for good — or so it appears. Fans have clamoured for St-Pierre, 40, to come out of retirement for one last mega-bout vs. 29-0 lightweight superstar Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is also retired. The other fighter being inducted tonight alongside St-Pierre is former UFC heavyweight champ Kevin Randleman.
The WNBA playoffs tip off tonight. They start with a pair of single-elimination matchups: No. 5 seed Phoenix vs. No. 8 New York, and No. 6 Chicago vs. No. 7 Dallas. The winners will meet No. 3 Minnesota and No. 4 Seattle (the defending champ) in the next round, which is also single elimination and will take place Sunday. Top-seeded Connecticut, which won its last 14 regular-season games, and No. 2 Las Vegas have a bye to the best-of-five semifinals. The final is also best-of-five. All three of the Canadians who play in the WNBA made the playoffs. Bridget Carleton and Natalie Achonwa are forwards for Minnesota who averaged 4.8 and 3.7 points this season, respectively, mostly off the bench. Guard Kia Nurse started all 32 games in her first season with Phoenix, where she plays alongside stars Brittney Griner, Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith. Nurse averaged 9.5 points this season. Read more about the WNBA playoffs in this story by CBC Sports' Myles Dichter.
Disc golf is catching on. The sport sometimes referred to as frisbee golf is, as CBC Sports' David Giddens writes, in a good place — "established enough to get respect, [but] still scrappy enough that players feel part of a cool community." You may have noticed, as I did this summer, people playing on courses folded into a public park or green space. And there are more signs that the sport is growing in this country. Two thousand Canadians currently belong to the Professional Disc Golf Association (which has 57,000 American members), and a woman from Victoria named Julie Moens recently placed second in the women's tournament at the PDGA's Amateur Disc Golf World Championships in Orlando, Fla. Moens, whose drives from the tee box can travel close to 400 feet, says a key to disc golf's rising popularity over the last decade or so is that it's become more inclusive to those outside of the sport's traditional white-male demographic. "I'm seeing foursomes of women now, and you never used to see that," she says. Read more about Moen and her growing sport in Giddens' story here.
You're up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.