In the 96-year history of the Ryder Cup, there have been just two drawn matches, in 1969 and 1989.
Last week’s thrilling 14-14 scoreline in the Solheim Cup was the first tie in the 18th edition of the equivalent women’s contest between Europe and the United States.
It brought sharply into focus whether a draw is a satisfactory result in the 21st century. Europe’s women, as defending champions, retained the trophy in Spain, just as the US men would with a tie this week in Italy.
In the immediate aftermath, US Solheim Cup captain Stacy Lewis said she felt it “would be a better experience for the fans if there was a team play-off or something like that” to decide an overall winner.
However, she countered that by adding she was respectful of the history and tradition of both the Solheim and Ryder Cups and wary of changing it.
- Find out how the BBC is covering the Ryder Cup
American Ryder Cup player Justin Thomas is in favour of finding a winner. After watching the Solheim Cup, he posted on social media: “Would be crazy. Think it would be really cool. Both captains pick one player and sudden death play-off for the Cup… sheeeesh.”
And therein lies the issue. Tradition and history versus moving the game forward.
The first Ryder Cup tie, in 1969 at Royal Birkdale, came about when American Jack Nicklaus made what has become the most famous concession in the history of the game.
Nicklaus holed a five-foot putt and then picked up Tony Jacklin’s ball marker, which was three feet from the hole. It meant their match and the overall score ended in a tie. Jacklin recalled that Nicklaus said to him: “I don’t believe you would have missed that, but I’d never give you the opportunity in these circumstances.”
It was an act of sportsmanship that has spawned the Nicklaus-Jacklin award, which will be presented on Sunday to the player who best represents the spirit of the Ryder Cup.
The second tie was in 1989 at The Belfry when Europe lost the final four matches to let slip a 14-10 lead.
Europe produced a similarly stirring Solheim fightback at Finca Cortesin. It was sporting drama at its pinnacle. Did it need an extra layer to find an ultimate winner?
It’s a debate the European men’s team falls on both sides of. Traditionalists, like Justin Rose, say let it be. Tyrrell Hatton is an advocate for change.
“Tying is probably not ideal,” said Englishman Hatton, who is playing in his third Ryder Cup this week.
“It would be interesting if there was a way of putting in a play-off.
“I think it would be pretty exciting for fans, and it would certainly create a pretty epic atmosphere.
“You probably have the time to do it. Just by having the tee times starting a bit earlier on Sunday would allow for, I don’t know, a nine-hole better-ball, two players best-ball sort of play-off format. I don’t know, I’m just thinking as I speak.
“That would be a lot more exciting than just that’s a tie like, oh, such-and-such retain the Cup. I don’t think that’s the best thing.”
It was a view echoed by American Max Homa, who is making his Ryder Cup debut this week.
“I’ve never liked ties,” he said. “They don’t make sense to me. The whole point of any competition is to see who wins. So I do not like ties. I do not like the retaining thing.
“I understand why they do it, but I’m not a fan of it. You have a completely new team, for instance, at the Solheim Cup, and they tied. Someone should play a play-off. Ties leave a bad taste in my mouth.”
However, fellow Englishman Rose, a veteran playing in his sixth Ryder Cup, does not want to see the format tinkered with.
“History is history,” said the 43-year-old Englishman. “History is so important. It’s quite nice to wrestle it back fair and square. You have to win it to get the Cup back.”
Rose, the 2013 US Open winner, likened the tie to England playing Australia for the Ashes in cricket.
“Retaining the Ashes is a big thing,” he said. “Retaining it, not letting the other team have the trophy, can be a win, so therefore, sometimes the tie is still relevant in my mind.
“I just keep loyal to the history of it.”
And Rory McIlroy, the player with most Ryder Cup experience in the European team, falls right in the middle of the two.
The Northern Irishman, who is making his seventh appearance in the biennial transatlantic tussle, said: “I was watching the Solheim Cup last week, and there were huge celebrations when Europe got to 14 and retained the Cup.
“And I thought to myself, geez, they are celebrating a lot for a draw, and then I go back to Medinah in 2012 and we went ballistic when we got to 14 as well.
“Retaining it means something, and there’s certainly a historical and traditional element to it.
“I do like traditions of the game, and this competition has been around since 1927, and that’s the way they have always done it. Does that mean that’s the way they always have to do it? Probably not. But it’s nice to keep some of the tradition around the event.”