The definitive story of the Ryder Cup—the event that pits the best golfers from America against the best from Europe—exploring the modern history of the tournament that led to the showdown at Whistling Straits in 2021.
The task facing Steve Stricker at the 2021 Ryder Cup was enormous. It was his job, as the American captain, to stare down almost 40 years of Ryder Cup history, break a pattern of home losses that had persisted almost as long, and reverse the tide of European dominance in one of golf's most tense and emotional events. This was the epitome of a must-win, but it was also something more—in the entire 93-year history of the event, no American side had ever faced this kind of pressure. Starting on the morning of September 24, those 12 players competed not just for a Cup, or for pride, but to save the reputation of the U.S. team itself.
The great mystery of the Ryder Cup is that America loses despite having superior individual talent. The European renaissance began in the 1980s, led by the brilliant Tony Jacklin and Seve Ballesteros, and since then, the U.S. has suffered a slew of embarrassing defeats abroad and at home. The signs in 2021 weren’t good: Tiger Woods was out after his horrific car crash, Patrick Reed (“Captain America,” to his supporters) was hospitalized with double pneumonia weeks before the event, and America had to rely on its rising stars—including Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, who spent most of the year immersed in an escalating feud—to prove their mettle. Meanwhile, the European team had a few major stars of its own, like Jon Rahm, the world no. 1 and the first Spanish player ever to win the U.S. Open, and Rory McIlroy, the four-time major winner. Throw in the complications of a global pandemic, and the stage was set for one of the strangest Ryder Cups ever.
Following the drama in Wisconsin while deconstructing the rich history of the tournament, The Cup They Couldn't Lose tells the story of how the U.S. defeated Europe in record fashion, restored their status as golf’s global superpower, and transformed their entire way of thinking in order to truly understand the nature of the Ryder Cup.
Shane Ryan is the author of the New York Times bestseller Slaying the Tiger. Since Slaying was published in 2015, Ryan has written for Golf Digest and Paste Magazine. He began his journalism career as a writer for Grantland, and he writes occasional essays for the New York Times. His work has also been published in ESPN the Magazine, Deadspin, Esquire, Salon, Slate, and Sports Illustrated.