I Don’t Get the Ryder Cup


I got up in the wee hours twice this weekend to watch the Ryder Cup, and now that the tumult and the shouting has died I am left wondering why I didn’t stay in bed. What I saw was confusing and unsatisfying.

It’s not just because the Americans lost to Europe.  And it’s not just because the loss was so embarrassing.

Throughout the absurdly overhyped event, I felt … uncomfortable.

The competition seemed to ring false. I could not believe that a crowd of Scots, who had come within a whisker of voting to separate from England just a few days earlier, were really that excited about a German golfer sinking a birdie putt. Or a Spanish golfer. Or a French golfer. Or even an Irish golfer.

To me, the chants of “Europe!, Europe!”  sounded ridiculous.

But I suppose any chant would have sounded odd.

I have played and watched golf during most of my 80 years, and I have never before heard a gallery singing battle songs or seen spectators high-fiving and leaping about with such abandon. (Or dancing – as Jose Maria Olazabal did on one occasion.) And I’ve never seen golf fans rigged out in such weird costumes (photo above).

Such carrying-on would be unthinkable at the courses where I’ve played. Some courses don’t even allow golfers to wear blue jeans or T-shirts.

The golf that I am familiar with is a quiet sport, played in serene surroundings. It’s part of the ancient game’s charm. Mostly, we mosey along in silence, muttering “Good shot” or “Bad luck” as the circumstances dictate.

Legendary Ben Hogan is said to have had only two words for opponents during a round of golf, “You’re away,” signaling that it was their turn to play and they should get on with it.

Furthermore, I don’t believe that American captain Tom Watson could have done anything to change the outcome. He could have arranged the teams differently, of course. And he could have selected different players at different times. But I bet it would have ended the same. American golf isn’t what it used to be.

Tiger is missing. Phil is sick and getting old – old and grumpy (he attracted criticism for daring to suggest Tom Watson’s captaincy was not perfect).

And there are no successors to Tiger and Phil on the horizon. Sorry, American fans, Jordan Spieth is no Tiger. Patrick Reed is no Tiger. And Rickie Fowler looked like a rain-drenched kitten during  his whuppin’ by Rory McIlroy.

Don’t get me wrong. These are among my favorite golfers. But my favorites all showed their feet of clay this weekend.

Not that I blame them.

It must have been bitter cold out there in the forbidding foothills of the Scottish Highlands. And the wind was fierce. I have visited Scotland a couple of times, and I understand why my Scottish  forbears moved to Jamaica.

I shivered just watching on TV.

And the format. Who still plays “foursomes” (also known as alternate-shot)? To me, there are few things in life more frustrating than hitting every other shot. And I can’t recall ever seeing Sunday golfers playing the game. They might still play that way in Scotland, but not in America.

I know, I know, I sound like a bad sport.

I should be saying something like, “Well played, old chap.”

And yes, the European team did play well, a lot better than the Americans.

But was it really golf?

Click here for more on the Ryder Cup.

Click for more on the format.