Did Hazeltine Save the Ryder Cup?
By ED TRAVIS
Now that a few days have passed since the USA Ryder Cup victory a couple of points should be raised.
Forget the humiliation of four years ago at Medinah. Forget Phil Mickelson’s criticisms of Captain Tom Watson and the “Ryder Cup Task Force” formed after the Gleneagles loss in 2014. Forget Davis Love III was this year’s captain…it’s certainly tough to say anything against him since the team won. Forget Patrick Reed’s over the top enthusiasm matched by the likes of Rory McIlroy on the European team.
Disregard the pontificating by pundits with meaningless “in depth” analysis of the swings and psychology and personalities of players on the two teams.
And you can even remove from your memory the few boors among the 240,000 fans visiting Hazeltine from the practice rounds Tuesday through the finals on Sunday.
What made the difference and why Team USA won a decisive win is simple; they just out played (read that as out putted) the Euros.
The atmosphere of a Ryder Cup is dramatically different than any other golf event, be it a regular Tour event or even a major championship. No matter how exciting of how good the golf they just have don’t have the same energy and the same effect on fans.
However, if the U.S. had lost again at Hazeltine golf fans could have been saying, “To heck with it. I don’t need this.”
The reasoning is simple. Ask any baseball or football fan whose team never seems to win the big one. After a while, after the repeated emotional investment, the buildup in anticipation of a win then the heart break and dashing of hopes of yet another loss gets to people. They lose interest.
Case in point I was an avid Buffalo Bills fan until 1993 and the fourth Super Bowl defeat in a row. I never went to another game.
The potential was there for the same thing to have happened to the Ryder Cup if the US had lost again.
It was true back in 1979 as well when Jack Nicklaus suggested in order to make the Ryder Cup competitive, which it clearly was not, European professionals from the Continent be included rather than as it had been with a team solely from Great Britain and Ireland. That brought to the Ryder Cup a couple of the greatest ever. Seve Ballesteros started in 1979 and so did another young continental star in 1981, Bernhard Langer.
As they say, the rest is history. The U.S. before 1979 was 18-3-1 and since then is 8-10-1. How long would have golf fans in Europe supported their team if they continued to be trounced as Great Britain and Ireland were for 50 years?
The answer is they wouldn’t and neither would American fans if Team USA kept losing especially if Hazeltine had been the fourth loss in a row.
The frustration of the players and bad vibes from trying so often and not winning would be a major factor.
There was more than little of that in Mickelson’s famous (or infamous depending on your view) comments in 2014 but his words did help to change what needed changing.
The victory at Hazeltine may just have invigorated both U.S. players and fans and saved the Ryder Cup from suffering a monumental lack of interest.