Containing a wee bit of padding and a lot of hype, this slight (but not slender) volume serves as a passable introduction to golf's biannual intercontinental grudge match. Initiated by a golfing-mad English seed merchant as a challenge between the best golfers in the US and Great Britain, the Ryder Cup has, coinciding with a change that expanded the British team to a pan-European one, come into its own. In marked contrast to the usually mercenary world of pro golf, Ryder Cup contestants, who are chosen primarily on the basis of merit, view the chance to play for their respective nations as a great honor. So great, that they play for expenses only, rather than the customary purses and appearance fees (although there is a groundswell of support for monetary awards). From the mid-1930s through the mid-1980s—when European golfers started to make their presence felt in Cup play—American teams won consistently and decisively, at one point retaining the Cup 14 straight times. Since then, American teams have seemed damned, not by a lack of talent, but rather by the inability to martial it into cohesive efforts—a fact proven at the last two Ryder Cups, at Valderrama, Spain, in 1997, and Oak Hill, near Rochester, N.Y., in 1995, when European squads beat their American foes in exciting matches. Despite its mounting prominence, the Ryder Cup is not, as Bubka and Clavin claim, the sport's premier event (several of the game's legends—Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo—concur). Overstatements like this are not uncommon. Nor is there a paucity of filler material (is the chapter "Ryder Relatives," which describes other team tournaments, necessary?). Many flaws, but this account by two veteran golf journalists seems to be the only book available combining a rehash of Ryder Cups past, a tribute to the tournament's luminaries and principles, and a preview of this year's competition, to be held in Brookline, Mass.
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