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.
It was a match for the ages. #RyderCup pic.twitter.com/x63tPMegZc
— PGA.COM (@PGAcom) October 2, 2016
Czabe, unless you’re a VIP you really can’t see the Ryder Cup in person. You can say you were there, but you can’t see much golf. First two days there are 50,000 people watching four matches. I’m not better than you at math, but that’s gotta be over 10,000 people per match.
Most patrons find a seat, stay put, and drink themselves into oblivion. And they see about 10 real golf shots per session.
I got to see a Friday round at one of the early President’s Cups at RTJ and it was a mediocre experience in person. Only a few holes have play so everyone is crowded together. I can only imagine more of the same, but worse at the Ryder Cup.
Jonny Mo in the 920
Well said Czabe. About the fans tho, if you’ve ever been an opposing fan at a Vikings or Twins game, you’d understand what kind of meatheads live in Minnesota.
Mike in Pa
Great assessment, Czabe. I’ve watched every Ryder Cup since I attended the debacle that was the US loss at Jack’s course, Muirfield Village. It’s not often that golf keeps you on the edge of your seat, but it did today. I couldn’t walk away for fear I’d miss something. The Reed / McIlroy match was an instant classic. My one question for you is, would you rather see a course set up such that it produces tons of birdie chances like Hazeltine was this week, or an absolute monster (tight fairways, deep US Open type rough, ridiculous greens)? I think I’d rather see guys play a really tough set up where they fight for pars to win holes. I think it adds to the drama.
Not sure if u caught the interview with ElDICK after the fact. This guy couldn’t of been a bigger DBag if u paid him. I guess once a prick forever a prick.
Tom N. in PA
Agree with most everything and especially the lack of the pro tracer. It was nice that in their limited use they showed the carry but pro tracer needs to be used for every drive and shots of 150 or more.
Bubba’s interview in contrast to Tigress’s was incredible. I think Mr. And Mrs. Watson should write a book on how to raise kids.
2nd best part after McIllroy/Reed was Tiger getting booted from the team photo not once but twice!
Rick DeLisi, Ashburn VA
As for Johnny Miller: Here’s all I ask, NBC…please just tell us…who LIKES this ass-clown? This dour negativo who sucks the joy out of watching TV golf like chrome off a trailer-hitch. I am more than willing to BTFO (back the f*** off) if there’s ANY kind of research evidence to indicate that, in fact there IS a solid core of fans that love the guy. (Suggestion: Perhaps you can leverage the CBS research that points to the core of fans who love Phil Simms). I’M WAITING…
We should stop trying to “grow the game”. It only attracts the idiots, like the Tiger fans that don’t watch unless he’s playing. Think the ones that got tossed for screaming obscenities are real golfers?
We’re gonna miss Miller when he’s gone. Don’t tell me you prefer that Nantz ass-kissing to the honesty that Miller brings. Where else are you going to hear a great HOFer saying exactly what he thinks? Faldo? Please. I will say that Feherty is much better on NBC now that he’s toned it down and shooting from the hip instead of the McCord-like, scripted jokes
I went to every session of the first 2 President’s Cups at RTJ. The first one was great as it was new and there were around 5-10K people there each day. I was able to walk with groups for their entire match and see nearly every shot. Was kind of like the Kemper @ Avenel on a Thursday morning. The crowd was at least double for the second one and access was a little more limited but I was able to see most of what I wanted. But the Ryder Cup? You couldn’t PAY me to go.