Image courtesy of YourGolfTravel.com

Ah, September. The roar of the crowd. Packed highways on the way to the event. Competitive levels reaching the edge of hysteria. Team colors displayed throughout the crowd.

The start of college football season?

Heck no, it’s the month of the Ryder Cup.

For the past 20 years, the competition between the United States and Europe (actually, The Rest of the World) has torched passions and inspired partisan activism like few other events in the mostly polite world of golf.

The quest for the Cup is scheduled to continue Sept. 24-26 at the marvelously named Whistling Straits course near Sheboygan, Wisc. Twelve players from opposing teams will battle over the three days, with the relatively small trophy and relatively large international pride on the line. In the vast sweep of international goings-on, it’s a minor thing, but in the world of golf it has become a battle royal that often produces heart-pounding competition and a fervor for winning that sometimes stretches beyond general acceptance.

By most accounts, the Ryder Cup reached this level of intensity during the 1991 competition at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island on the South Carolina coast. The Americans won the Cup when Bernhard Langer famously missed a short, curling putt on the final hole in the final match, unleashing a celebration the like of which had rarely been seen in previous Ryder matches. The fires had been stoked during the week as tensions mounted between Seve Ballesteros of the European team and Paul Azinger of the U.S. team. The emotions surrounding the event seemed to intensify with each shot, and the accompanying fan response reached levels of goofiness. For example, a local radio disc jockey obtained phone numbers of the locations where members of the European team were staying and called them in the middle of the night, hoping to interrupt sleep patterns (and, obviously, attract more listeners).

The 1991 Cup became known as the War On The Shore, and it set the stage for a new era in the international competition, with each succeeding Ryder Cup gathering seemingly more important than the last. Europe has won four of the past five competitions and will seek to defend the Cup behind Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood and, quite likely, Ryder Cup firebrands like Ian Poulter.

The U.S. will counter with a talented if somewhat disheveled team. It has star power in Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay (who seemingly became the world’s best putter last weekend), Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas. And, of course, there is the dynamic duo of Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, whose sometimes child-like feuding could be either a rallying point or a big negative for the American team. Hopefully, they won’t be roommates.

The past decade has seen the European team play to its strengths, often taking down U.S. foes with much shinier resumes. The idea of “team” has seemed to be more meaningful for the Europeans, particularly as they faced sometimes over-exuberant celebrations on the part of the U.S. team and some of its fans.

It’s almost time to renew the tussle. Let’s enjoy. And, please, no cowbells.