For the past week, the center of the golf world resided in Chaska, Minnesota, at Hazeltine National Golf Club, the site of the 2016 Ryder Cup. The United States won the cup for the first time in 2008 and erased the demons that lingered from the Miracle at Medinah the last time the event was played on American soil, in which the USA blew a four-point lead on the final day.
The Ryder Cup, to me, is one of the unique events in all of sports. I’ve been a fan of golf for most of my life, and I understand it appeals to a select audience, usually people who play or have played the game. I understand the argument that the sport sometimes comes across as boring to those unfamiliar with the game. The quiet nature and reserved behavior in golf often breeds that. But if you are one of those people who believes golf is boring, I encourage you to watch the Ryder Cup the next time it is played, in 2018.
Team golf instantly makes the game more intriguing and, beyond that, it brings out the emotions and excitement that are often lacking in the sport.
In what other setting can you find 24 millionaires screaming, yelling and celebrating with the sense of childish joy while trying to win an event in which there is no prize money?
I can’t think of one.
Every two years, the 12 best American players battle for three days against a dozen of Europe’s finest to take home the coveted cup for no other reason than pride for their respective countries.
This year wasn’t lacking in drama and excitement, either. From Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth defeating Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose in the first match of the tournament Friday morning, to Reed and Rory McIlroy’s emotional battle to start the singles matches on Sunday, the action never ceased.
One particular instance this weekend epitomized what is great about the Ryder Cup. On the eighth hole of Reed and McIlroy’s match on Sunday, McIlroy drained a 50-foot putt for birdie, forcing Reed to make his 20 footer to halve the hole. McIlroy screamed as the putt went down and cupped his hand over his ear, taunting the crowd as if to say “I can’t hear you.” The gesture sparked a shower of boos from the American crowd (most of whom are fans of McIlroy any other week of the year). Reed then stepped up to his putt and drained it to halve the hole. He turned to McIlroy and wagged his finger as if to say “not so fast” before letting out a series of screams and fist pumps that ignited the 50,000 watching in red, white and blue.
Reed and McIlroy then fist-bumped while exchanging an appreciative laugh and walked to the 9th tee box.
This episode, to me, portrays why the Ryder Cup brings out the best in golf. The fan interaction that comes with the back-and-forth heckling from the home crowd and the visiting team. The pride of the thousands of people screaming in the gallery in an effort to help will their team to take home the cup.
But also, the sportsmanship like the fist-bump between the two that signified how much they appreciated the electric scene, atmosphere and audience in front of which they were playing. Golf hinges itself on integrity and sportsmanship. That doesn’t mean that it can’t have a little trash talk and emotion in it, either.
The Ryder Cup breeds both, and it is one of my favorite sporting events on earth.