Sports doesn't get better than this: the finest golfers in the world grinding under 10 atmospheres of pressure for nothing more than honor, team, country and a couple of free pairs of slacks. In fact the Ryder Cup, which begins next week in Valderrama, Spain, has become the single greatest event in sports. Why? Wanna go a quick 18?
1) Ryder Cup play is always tighter than Jesper Parnevik's pants. Since 1987, in fact, the aggregate score has been a dead heat—Europe 70, U.S. 70—and the five matches have gone like this: Euros win by two, then a tie, then the Yanks win by one, then the Yanks by two, then the Euros by one. Since '87, the Super Bowl is NFC 11, AFC 0. The World Series hasn't gone to a seventh game since '91. And the NBA Finals don't actually exist anymore—they're stored in Michael Jordan's basement.
2) It's one of the few things in life that is better than advertised. The Super Bowl is two weeks of hype and three hours of tripe. The Ryder Cup is three days of blast furnace. How tense is it? One year Corey Pavin was so nervous he couldn't get the tee in the ground—and nobody had hit a shot yet.
3) Things happen at the Ryder Cup you just don't see anywhere else. Millionaires putting out and then sprinting back three holes to cheer on their teammates. Jack Nicklaus kissing Lanny Wadkins's divot. Players jumping into the Atlantic Ocean.
4) Tiger Woods will be playing in it for the next 25 years.
5) There is no place to hide. If you aren't getting your serve in at Wimbledon, you go home the first day and nobody notices. But if you're in the Ryder Cup and your swing has left you for another golfer, tough titanium, because your every shank, smother and skull will be broadcast to more than 100 countries. Can you say "choke" in Farsi?
6) Did we mention these guys do it for nothing? Unfortunately, there is some grumbling among the players to be cut in on the reported $2 million proceeds generated by the Cup. No, no, no. As soon as you pay them, the Ryder Cup becomes just another cash grab by guys in pleats playing for their fourth house.
7) Usually, when you go to a Ryder Cup, you are somewhere—Kiawah Island, Valderrama, the English countryside. Usually, when you go to the World Series, you are in the Bronx.
8) The envelope. No other sporting event has anything as heroic as "the envelope." Before Cup play starts on the final day, each captain must put one of his players' names in an envelope in case of an injury to an opponent. The injured player and the player named in the other team's envelope remove themselves from the matches, and the teams split a point. Wadkins volunteered his name in 1993 and inspired the U.S. to victory. Can you see Emmitt Smith, with the crew for an instant Reebok commercial waiting in the end zone, volunteering to sit out the Super Bowl? Please.
9) The Ryder Cup is usually completed without loss of ear cartilage.