The Ryder Cup is a sports delicacy. It comes along just once every 2 years, and the 3 days of play go by in a blur. If you play golf at all, it’s become a mandatory schedule re-arranger to watch. A bucket list item, to see in person.
And it’s also great because it’s become so huge, so telegenic, and so evenly matched and passionate on both sides, it can even rope in non-golf-watching sports fans – even up against mighty football.
Even though this year’s 17-11 door slamming by Team USA lacked the kind of hat-in-the-air finish highlight, the whole week was damn near perfection for the PGA of America and Team USA.
Now… to my grades…
The course was immaculate, and the re-routing done since the last we saw it on TV makes perfect sense. Holes 15, 16, and 17 presented enough danger, and risk-reward decisions. The rest of the layout doesn’t blow my skirt up, but it’s a big ballpark that the PGA likes/needs for all the fans, stands, tents and infrastructure. I’m not entirely sure that having muni-course level rough heights makes for the most compelling match-play golf. It led to oodles of birdies, but it also made the whole thing a bit of a putting contest. The last really tricky, tight Ryder venue was Valderrama. I personally loved it! Twisting, up and down holes, encroaching cork trees, and a goofball 17th green that saw Tiger putt it OFF the green into the lake. I’m pretty sure the Ryder Cup is never going back to such a venue, since it’s become such a cash cow/monster. Still, I wouldn’t mind a Ryder Cup where there’s a premium put on driving, strategy, and making sure you stay in the hole by avoiding mistakes. The 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in France (Albatros Course) looks big, brawny, and open-ish. Sorta like a French version of the K-Club. The 2020 Cup is at Whistling Straits, and should be amazing.
The Fans: B+
Look, it’s awesome to see a packed house on the 1st tee a full three hours before the first ball gets hit. But, something has GOT to be done about the rogue idiots yelling obscenities and heckling the opposing players. I don’t have an exact plan, but surely the “Task Force” can tackle this next. Given that there are plenty of green-vested “Mobile Phone Enforcement” officials roaming the course, you can surely do the same when it comes to ejecting fans. Otherwise, the crowds were amazing, loud, and 99% “in-bounds” on creating a true home course advantage.
The Coverage: C
Okay, let’s first give NBC/Golf Channel credit for the whole “playing through” concept on commercial breaks. Thank you. However, it also served to hammer home just how much action we MISS because of commercials. Production values, produced opens, and the announcers were all good, as expected. However, I’ve personally had enough of Johnny Miller. You? David Feherty was a joy to listen to in the morning sessions. He gave a light touch to adding meaningful commentary, and had the line of the week. Feherty said playing the Ryder Cup was like that feeling when you kick your feet up on the table, lean back in your chair and ALMOST fall over. Except it feels like that for 5 hours! Perfect. There was way too little ProTracer for my liking. NBC used cranes with what I assumed were robotically controlled cameras instead. It delivered a fantastic ball-following view from high above the hole, and was very good on the reachable par-5 16th hole. That said….. MORE ProTracer! Stop fighting it TV directors! It’s what we want! I wished the Ryder Cup app had the ability to watch individual matches, or perhaps give us a quad-screen viewer. Or the international feed to see and hear what the other side was seeing. Sigh. Maybe in 2018.
The “Task Force”: A
Look, I mocked it as overkill, but when you win and win big, there’s no argument. In fairness, there WAS too much that players were left out of the loop on when it came to captain selection, and more. So now that we’ve got our arms around that, we’ll see what other tweaks may come out of this newfound consensus in the future. The PGA of America has to seriously re-think the whole un-written rule that only PGA Champions can be captains. For one, we’re running out of names. Does anybody really want Mark Brooks, David Toms, or Rich Beem as captain? Larry Nelson – a two time PGA winner – is the name everybody says has been wrongfully snubbed. But he smells like a dinosaur, and well… has anybody seen him lately? If you really want the task force to help create processes to help you WIN above everything else, then you can’t get your pants in a wad when the players ask for a wildly popular guy with Presidents Cup success like Fred Couples to have his turn.
Big Winners: Team USA
Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson. Reed for the obvious reasons. He was unbelievably good from start to finish, and would have gone 5-0 except for partner Spieth who started to get heavy at times. Mickelson would have taken permanent damage to his reputation had he sucked, and god forbid, the US lost. Instead, Mickelson played decent, to good, to great as the week wore on. The singles tie with Sergio was like a Rocky fight: all offense, a total slugfest. And of course Davis Love is a big winner, who at times seemed to take too much input from all of his Vice Captains, stat guys, and the players themselves. But he didn’t outthink himself, which is often half the battle.
Big Losers: Team USA
None. Winning is a scent that makes everyone smell like a rose, even the guys who played mediocre.
Big Winners: Team Europe
The “Big 4” of McIlroy, Rose, Garcia, and Stenson did all they could. Thomas Pieters is a possible force to come for years. But then again, they said that about Nicolas Colsaerts.
Big Losers: Team Europe
Poor Lee Westwood. And by that I mean, screw him! He has likely played his last Ryder Cup, and those gakking misses down the stretch on Saturday are now indelible in golf history. And memo to Danny Willett: you are a likeable guy. But tell that stupid half-breed brother of yours to disappear, for good. Not that anybody was truly insulted by his sophomoric guest column, but nobody wants to be defined by a family member trying to scoop up 15 minutes of social media fame. Darren Clarke had a tough hand to play with so many rookies. I’m not sure there was any magical strategy that would have mapped a route to victory against this team, on this course, and these fans.
The Forever Moment: McIlroy and Reed Throw Haymakers
I’ve been watching golf like a love-struck nerd of this game since I was 10. I know I’ve never seen anything like that exchange on #8 between them. Rory with the heel-turn “I can’t hear you!” followed by Reed’s “Dikembe Finger” reply. It capped a four hole stretch in which both guys were a combined 9 under. Best of all, both guys walked off to the 9th tee with a smile, a fist bump, and mutual respect. It’s the best single moment this awesome game has had in years. In this event, you can play to the crowd, have flair and emotion, but not hate your opponent. We’re a long long way from Azinger and Seve tensely accusing each other of cheating at Kiawah. And thank God for that. Great show, Ryder Cup. See you in France, in 2018.
— PGA.COM (@PGAcom) October 2, 2016