With the final individual major championship of the golf season complete, the spotlight next turns to Ireland, where in less than a month, the United States will attempt to win back the Ryder Cup from Europe.
Just as US supremacy in basketball went unchallenged for decades, the Americans nearly had a stranglehold on golf's most important team championship from its inception in 1927 . The first match was played at Worcester Country Club , and after splitting the first four competitions, the United States defeated the team from Britain and Ireland in 19 of the next 21 meetings, losing once and tying once.
To make the biennial matches more competitive, it was agreed that any player from continental Europe be eligible for the former Britain side, starting in 1979. The move certainly worked: Since 1985, Europe has won the cup six of 10 times, with three losses and one tie.
That recent European dominance has gotten the attention of US golf fans, particularly an 18 1/2-9 1/2 humbling in 2004, the Americans' worst loss ever. Yes, Tiger Woods was on that team, along with Phil Mickelson and all the best US players. To add insult to the defeat, it occurred at Oakland Hills County Club outside Detroit, which is akin to the New York Yankees winning five straight games at . . . well, never mind, you get the point.
The matches have never been held in Ireland, and the land of ``one hundred thousand welcomes" is eager to show off not just the K Club outside Dublin, where the matches will be contested Sept. 22-24, but its other 200-odd courses, some of which are rated among the best in the world.
If you watched US captain Tom Lehman choose the final two players to complete the team last Monday and got it into your head that it would be fun to go to Ireland for the matches, you may be too late. The lone ``stand-alone" tickets available are for a practice round on Tuesday, Sept. 19, three days before the competition begins in earnest, and the exclusive US provider of Ryder Cup packages, Premier Golf, had extremely limited availability on its three packages, starting at $4,400. Call 888-439-1831 or go to premiergolf.com for more information.
If you are itching to just play some of Ireland's top courses, one sample itinerary from Onlinegolftravel.com includes nine nights' accommodations at four- and five-star hotels, including four nights at luxurious Dromoland Castle, golf at a selection of classic Irish courses, including Portmarnock, Mount Juliet, Lahinch, Ballybunion's Old Course, Old Head, and Adare Manor, full Irish breakfast each day, and a rental car (automatic) with unlimited mileage, for $4,463 per person, based on two people traveling.
Willbrook Plantation, recently named one of Golf for Women magazine's top 25 courses, boasts the ``Launch Your Game" program, which incorporates a launch monitor to measure clubhead speed, ball flight, and other data to analyze and improve your swing.
The weekend will also include on-course instruction and lessons in putting, chipping, sand play, irons , and woods, with the promise of a low student- teacher ratio.
After a welcome reception Thursday evening, players will have two days of morning instruction and two afternoon rounds on Willbrook Plantation or Litchfield. The three-night workshop costs $699, and more information is available by calling 888-486-3249 or visiting myrtlebeachwomensgolf.com.
Contact Ron Driscoll at rdriscoll@ globe.com .