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A multitude of reasons to tune in

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Why are you going to watch the Ryder Cup today and through the weekend?

There is no shortage of reasons.

-- You've fallen in fan love with the world's new No. 1 player, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.

-- Love him or hate him, you can't take your eyes off Tiger Woods. Will the week be something better for the resume or a car wreck?

-- The Ryder Cup is just not another weekend of golf. It is unusual in format -- match play and team versus team. Players, used to being on their own in a weekly staredown of whatever course they are competing on, now must focus on opponents and tactics.

Those three ought to be high on most lists, but the fascination for all that is Ryder Cup doesn't stop there.

One of the things that compels me to watch is the ongoing search for class under pressure.

You will find events and incidents to reveal those players on many weeks of the season. Certainly, they are found in some fashion every week there is a major championship.

But in the team format with match play, most of these robotic performers revert more to their true selves. There's a whole new gamut of stimuli and variables beyond the 72-hole, four-day stroke-play routine and a whole lot less practice in the buttoning down and covering up of emotion and behaviour.

In terms of class under pressure, how about these:

-- Jack Nicklaus's concession of a two-foot putt to Tony Jacklin at the conclusion of the 1969 Ryder Cup singles, ensuring that the result was a 16-16 tie, ending a run of embarrassing drubbings for Great Britain and Ireland. At that moment, Nicklaus still had much of his career in front of him but the act speaks so much about the man.

-- Painful though it must have been, Bernhard Langer could be seen with a smile on his face congratulating Hale Irwin and the rest of the winning Americans after he missed the final putt of the 1991 Ryder Cup from five feet. The par putt would have given Europe a draw and retention of the Cup on Kiawah Island, known as the War on the Shore. But in the aftermath of what was surely an excruciating career moment, Langer became the embodiment of what kind of sportsmanship drives the spirit of golf.

-- In whatever dictionary you'd care to look, you'd find a picture of the 1999 American team under "good winners." The overdone in-game agitations and celebrations -- congratulations, players and New Englanders -- have, to the relief of many, become a turning point in returning some respect to the Ryder Cup. But within the mess at Brookline, Mass., can be found a sane, sober, classy highlight, when Payne Stewart conceded his match to Colin Montgomerie on the 18th, after the overall result had been determined and in deference to his opponent, who had been heckled mercilessly by the home crowd.

-- Can you not be moved by the play of and the caring for Darren Clarke at the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club in Ireland? Just weeks after his wife lost her battle with cancer, Clarke's play was sublime, contributing three points for the winning European side and a wonderful page to the golf history books.

What awaits us this year?

The respective captains fit the definition of class.

Jose Maria Olazabal, has always conducted himself with humility. The former Masters champ has also been a huge asset to the Ryder Cup, with an 18-8-5 record as a player.

And a personal favourite, somebody to pull for, has always been Davis Love III, the American captain. The stain of 1999 does not belong much to him and you'd be right to expect that his influence on this playing of the Ryder Cup will reflect his character and his approach.

Hype aside, pray that those of good character will write the headlines.

birdie barrage coming C6

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 28, 2012 C1

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