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updated: 9/22/2012 4:53 PM

As a sports draw, Ryder Cup a major factor

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  • There will be lots of flag waving this week at Medinah Country Club, just as there was in 2008 when fans welcomes Team USA at the Ryder Cup opening ceremonies (above) at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. In golf, it's the biggest event of the year.

      There will be lots of flag waving this week at Medinah Country Club, just as there was in 2008 when fans welcomes Team USA at the Ryder Cup opening ceremonies (above) at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. In golf, it's the biggest event of the year.
    Associated Press/2008 file/Chris O'Meara

 
 

The Ryder Cup is often called the Super Bowl of golf, but don't go comparing it to the NFL championship game.

Las Vegas doesn't.

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According to Kevin Bradley, manager of Bovada.lv sports book in Nevada, nothing compares to the Super Bowl and NFL.

But the Ryder Cup does compare quite well to other golf majors, NBA Finals or the Stanley Cup Finals, said Bradley.

"The Ryder Cup is a heavily bet golf tournament and is on the same level as betting on any major," Bradley said. "The odds to win the whole thing do not take much money, but the individual matchups take the bulk of it.

"No one event can really compare to the Super Bowl or the NFL for that matter, but the Ryder Cup would take as much as an NBA Finals game and approximately five times what a Stanley Cup Finals game would in terms of money wagered."

Big names the key

Nothing would make Las Vegas happier -- and many U.S. fans as well -- than to have either Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson playing well this week at Medinah Country Club.

"The main thing in golf for us, as a sports book, is when big-name U.S. players are in a tournament," Bradley said. "So any tournament that has Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods, whether he is playing well or not, the action we take will significantly increase and the longer they last throughout the tournament the more and more we take."

Tiger vs. Rory

The golf world would be turned upside down if captains Davis Love and Jose Maria Olazabal choose to have Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy paired in Sunday's singles matches.

McIlroy threw fuel on the fire before the Fed Ex Cup at the Barclays when he said of Woods that he would love to "go out in the first (match) and kick his (butt)."

"The key to this Ryder Cup is Rory McIlroy," said past U.S. captain Paul Azinger. "Just like we used to do with Seve (Ballesteros), and Europe has done with Tiger, the U.S. has to find Rory.

"Figure out what slot he is in, either when he is teaming up with Graeme McDowell or in singles, and put our hottest players against him. And if they are not our biggest names, all the better because then they will have everything to gain. If we can beat Rory, we win this Ryder Cup."

It's a sellout

The lottery for Ryder Cup tickets drew more than 100,000 responses from golf fans and sold out instantly.

Said Ryder Cup chairman Don Larson: "We had the PGA in '06 and that was a big deal. This is the PGA times three. It's a once in a lifetime event."

Big moneymaker

This week's Ryder Cup will generate $80 million for DuPage County and $130 million for the Chicago region, according to Skip Strittmatter, executive director of the DuPage County visitor and convention bureau.

"More media credentials will be handed out than the Super Bowl," Strittmatter said.

From a charity standpoint, the Ryder Cup will generate more than $3.2 million to support various charities as well. And since 1999, the Ryder Cup has donated more than $18 million to charities.

The course

Medinah spent $1.5 million on course renovation, focusing on the greens. The 15th hole was turned into a drivable par-4 that should make that hole the place to be.

The big hitters on the U.S. hope to make this hole the one that turns some matches.

The Americans have lost only once at home dating to 1999, in 2004 at Oakland Hills, which was set up like a major with thick rough and narrow fairways.

Love said Medinah will have limited rough and quick greens, which should benefit the U.S. team, and make it more enjoyable for spectators.

"We've set it up the way we think fans will like it," Love said. "People probably don't believe that, but we set it up so that it's fun to watch. You don't want to see players chipping out and putting for par at the Ryder Cup. You want to see birdies. You want to see excitement. TV is going to like it. We had four players up there in the last week, and they loved it."

Star power

The Super Bowl has its halftime show, which is watched by billions and no sports venue comes close to topping those numbers.

The Ryder Cup, however, has its own version of star power with "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks singing at the Opening Ceremonies on Thursday, which follows the Wednesday night Gala, hosted by Justin Timberlake, at the Akoo Theatre in Rosemont ($100 tickets available at ticketmaster.com).

There's also a star-studded golf event with the celebrity scramble on Tuesday that will pair Timberlake, the U.S. Team ambassador for the Ryder Cup, with actor/comedian Bill Murray, Justin Timberlake, Michael Phelps and George Lopez with Chicago sports legends Ernie Banks, Richard Dent, Stan Mikita and Scottie Pippen against past U.S. Ryder Cup captains Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin, Dave Stockton, Hall Sutton, Lee Trevino and Lanny Wadkins.

And if you don't have tickets to any Ryder Cup event, don't worry -- there is plenty of television, print and online coverage this week.

NBC and the Golf Channel will combine for more than 60 hours of telecasts throughout the week and with Saturday and Sunday's tournament coverage, and those networks are bringing in their biggest hitters with Johnny Miller, Colin Montgomerie and David Feherty leading the pack. ESPN has a full day of tournament coverage on Friday as well.

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