If you have never been to a live sporting event, I would highly recommend considering the Ryder Cup simply because the two that I have been to are probably two of my favorite sporting experiences to date. After traveling 8 hours to Chicago in 2012 to watch the now infamous ‘Miracle at Medinah’ where Europe fought back from 10-6 heading into the final day to pull off a miraculous victory, we took our travels one step further by flying over to Scotland to watch the Ryder Cup 2014 event play out.
Golf is of course a competitive sport, but the Ryder Cup is completely different and like no other golf tournament that professional golfers participate in. This is the only time that the golfers actually create a team like environment and play for each other (in addition to their country and continent), rather than just playing for themselves.
What is the Ryder Cup?
Just to give you a brief insight into what the Ryder Cup is all about, let’s just say it’s where Europe and USA play against each other over three days of competitive golf and which ever team comes out with the most points wins! The Ryder Cup is held every two years and alternates venues between the two continents. The rest of the world participates against USA in the President’s Cup which follows a similar schedule but does not have the same prestige or reputation as the Ryder Cup.
Europe have had the clear edge in this competition over the last two decades so the Americans headed to Gleneagles, Scotland hoping to regain the Cup for the first time since 2008.
Our Journey to Gleneagles
Our trip to Scotland was eventful on its own, and that is even before seeing a tee shot hit by either Europe or USA. Leaving Jonesboro, Arkansas on Friday evening after work, we drove 8 hours to Atlanta, Georgia to get a flight Saturday lunch time. Our route took us from Atlanta to Toronto where we endured a 7 hour layover, before heading on to Copenhagen, Denmark. We stayed in Copenhagen for 2 days before flying to Manchester, England where we visited with my parents for 3 days.
A pretty eventful route, but given that the flight from Atlanta to Copenhagen was only $420 return it was pretty much a steal and well worth the ’round the houses’ approach to get there.
We finally drove from Manchester to Gleneagles on Thursday morning in time to experience the final practice day plus the opening ceremony.
The first thing to note when experiencing a Ryder Cup in Scotland is that the event organization is crucial in order for the whole experience to be positive. Full credit should be given to the Scottish Council and all organizations that were involved in the Ryder Cup 2014 event, because everything was smooth and efficiently planned out.
Pre-purchasing ‘Park and Ride’ tickets was mandatory and there were three locations to choose from, each around 20 miles from the Gleneagles golf course. Even though we opted for one park and ride location on the Thursday and a different location the next three days, we received passes for the Balado Park & Ride in Kinross (East of Gleneagles).
I should add that purchasing tickets for the Ryder Cup is not easy either as you have to go through a lottery ballet process in order to get them. The anti-fraud companies out there decided to take the ticketing process one step further by requiring all applicants to add their picture to the ticket which was printed on our season passes. Given that we were initially rejected and only received tickets during the ‘second release’, our choice of hotels was limited and we were forced to stay in Glasgow which is around 40 miles from Gleneagles, or a hour drive through the Scottish countryside.
Thursday – Final Practice Round
I would highly recommend heading to a practice round at any golf tournament, especially if you are not a huge golf fan and just want to go for the experience. Practice rounds are much more relaxed and you are even able to take your cameras to take as many pictures of your favorite golfers as you want!
We arrived at the Balado Park & Ride around 11:00AM and after passing through security (very much like airport security) we hopped on the double decker bus for the 40 minute shuttle to Auchterarder, the Scottish village home of Gleneagles. This was a really scenic drive through the Scottish valleys and at certain points it appeared that we were heading into the Scottish Highlands, but either way it was cool even though doing this every day got a little old.
After leaving the bus, we headed to the 17th green just in time to see the first group of Americans coming through. We were able to capture some really good pictures and we stood by the side of the tee box as the other American practice groups filtered through as they closed out their final practice rounds.
After watching this for a while, we headed over to the practice range to see some of the Europeans including Ian Poulter and Thomas Bjorn finishing up their practice sessions before the opening ceremony later that afternoon. We decided not to stay for the opening ceremony as we wanted to head over to St. Andrews AKA ‘The Home of Golf’ before darkness set in.
Friday – Opening Day of Ryder Cup 2014
With crowds in excess of 45,000 flocking to Gleneagles, we knew that an early start was needed in order to capture a great viewing spot for the morning fourballs. Rising early at 5:00AM we headed to Balado and arrived at Gleneagles just after the opening match had struck their tee-shots down the first fairway.
We spent the day enjoying the beautiful Scottish weather and being entertained first by the 7th green and later by the 17th. Both of these spots, in particular on the hill by the 7th were really great spots for spectators. Gleneagles in general is a great golf course for the paying public, with a number of elevated spots overlooking the course.
After a closely fought morning session that the US team edged, the afternoon foursomes belonged to Europe and they finished the day with a 5-3 lead.
Day 1 Scores
Morning Fourballs – Europe 1.5 USA 2.5
Afternoon Foursomes – Europe 3.5 USA 0.5
Overall – Europe 5 USA 3
Saturday – Europe Takes Control
Saturday’s play essentially mirrored that of Friday’s, with Europe continuing to dominate the afternoon session and ending the day in complete control. But it could have been so different had one or two putts dropped for the Americans, and the European pairings of Rose and Stenson and McDowell and Dubuisson had not been so dominant!
We were again very fortunate to experience great weather, at no point during the whole week did we encounter any rain at Gleneagles (I am sure that is a completely rare occurrence in Scotland!)
If USA is going to regain the Ryder Cup, they are quickly going to have to discover how to play foursomes golf. Whether this is because Americans generally are very individualistic and Europeans have a more team-oriented approach, I am not sure but either way Europe’s complete domination in this format was the clear difference between the two teams. Over the two days, Europe won this format 7-1.
Day 2 Scores
Morning Fourballs – Europe 1.5 USA 2.5
Afternoon Foursomes – Europe 3.5 USA 0.5
Overall – Europe 10 USA 6
Sunday – Glory at Gleneagles
Arriving in Auchterarder early Sunday morning, I was immediately thinking back to arriving at Medinah two years earlier and the thoughts of an improbable comeback taking place. Would we be in for a similar day today with the Americans making their own ‘miracle’ fightback or would Europe hold on a secure the 14 points required to retain the Ryder Cup? Four points from a possible twelve, surely it wouldn’t be too difficult!
The early play suggested otherwise with USA getting off to a fast start in several of the opening matches. Jordan Spieth continued his scintillating form despite his rookie status and was quickly 3 up on McDowell. Hunter Mahan was making a mockery of Justin Rose’s performance this week and was 4 up early in their mouthwatering encounter.
However, Europe continued to show why they are renowned as being gritty and having never-say-die attitudes to fight back in both of the aforementioned matches! With world number one Rory McIlroy destroying Rickie Fowler and Martin Kaymer sealing another point over Bubba Watson with a stunning chip-in at 16, it all came down to rookie Jamie Donaldson to seal the Ryder Cup for Europe with a breathtaking approach shot on 15 from 100 yards against Keegan Bradley.
When Bradley conceded his putt, all of Gleneagles erupted and this experience is worth the long trip alone! No other golf tournament would you experience the stadium like atmosphere that you do at the Ryder Cup and with European fans chanting “Olé, Olé, Olé” it really was a moment that Heather and I will cherish for a long time!
Day 3 Scores
Singles – Europe 6.5 USA 5.5
Overall – Europe 16.5 USA 11.5
So Heather and I have attended the last two Ryder Cups and on both occasions Europe have won. Are we a good omen? I hope so but either way we look forward to attending many more in the future starting with the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in Minnesota!
People have asked us about the divide in our household between Europe and USA but I think I convinced Heather to support the Europeans in 2012 so we are both on the same page now! GO EUROPE!!
Interesting in seeing many more pictures from our Ryder Cup 2014 experience? Check out our all new gallery over at our Travel Photos Around the World site: Gleneagles Ryder Cup 2014