Ryder Cup: Sportsmanship V Gamesmanship
This Friday will once again see the finest male golfers from Europe and USA lock horns in the pandemic delayed 2020 Ryder Cup, played on American soil at Whistling Straits In Wisconsin. Both Captains and their assorted vice captains have now finalised the teams and interested observers are all now desperately keen to see what pairings will the two captains Steve Stricker & Padraig Harrington favour and, particularly within the USA team this year, how exactly the obvious friction between a number of their superstar multi millionaire stars can be put on hold to allow their great ability to be deployed for the benefit of their team and the event.
At this stage of our preview I have a confession.I really don’t like The Ryder Cup. Difficult to say when precisely I fell out of love with this bi-annual slug fest. I suspect it started around the time European Captains Jacklin & Gallacher had the temerity to start beating the pride of The PGA Tour in their own backyard on a regular basis. American dominance and seeming invincibility had been demolished and many Americans really didn’t take too kindly to it.
Where previously we had supreme polite courtesy and the highest level of sportsmanship from all players and galleries, now we had talk of “ going into battle “, the obligatory fist pumping after every holed putt and a rapid increase in taunting and insults thrown at opposition players from so called golf fans.
Very sadly and I am sure very frustrating for those working so hard to promote the Women’s Professional game the superb victory for Catriona Matthew’s European Solheim Cup team was briefly undermined by another controversial decision; this time by an over enthusiastic rules official deciding to stick her nose in where it wasn’t welcome. On these occasions the game of golf really doesn’t help itself.
Meanwhile back at The Ryder Cup.
To be precise Justin Leonard v Jose Maria Olazabal. Two great golfers; both Major champions. Match very tight. 17th green and Justin sinks a huge 45’ putt for birdie. What happens next has gone down in Ryder Cup folklore and not in any good way! What seemed like the entire USA R.C contingent including players, caddies, vice-captains, wives, girlfriends and various hangers-on decided en masse they were entitled to invade the green running around hugging and high-fiving in a display of unrestrained joy. The only issue and it’s a biggy is that Ollie still had his own 20’ putt to secure a half on the hole.
I would dearly like to believe that if it had been someone like Nicklaus or Watson playing for USA they would have immediately apologised to Olazabal for the appalling conduct, picked up Ollie’s marker, conceded his putt and moved to the 18th tee still all square.
To the eternal shame of all concerned Ollie was forced to putt, missed his putt and USA was assured of the half point required to secure victory.
Sam Torrance ( vice captain in 1999 ) summed up the events of that day as “ the most disgraceful and disgusting day in the history of professional golf “
Now 22 years later and and once again the lead up to this much anticipated ( for some ) contest has raised concerns about “ fan behaviour “. Bizarrely officials from the PGA are much exercised about their own supporters provoking the much maligned USA player Bryson deChambeau; the very same player who continues to show such disregard for attendees at tournament with his failure to shout Fore following his many wayward or even intended shots heading towards the crowds.Many commentators have suggested the priority perhaps should be to sort out Mr DeChambeau’s total lack of correct etiquette or indeed his understanding of the rules of golf.
There will be many attending this year’s Ryder Cup who’s only concern will be a USA win regardless of how that is achieved. For the good of the game I can only hope that lessons have genuinely been learned since 1999 and that we will see a high standard of golf etiquette from both sides; rivals being humble in victory and gracious in defeat, generosity towards both teams from the crowd and a lesson for all young golfers on the proper way to behave on a golf course. I don’t think I will be holding my breath.