View large image | More photos
|Lee Westwood was the target of many American fans' jeers during the Ryder Cup Matches at Valhalla. (PGA of America)|
With the steadily increasing media spotlight on the Ryder Cup Matches, will the once-dignified biennial matchup between U.S. and European golfers become just like other rowdy sporting events?
To those watching the Ryder Cup Matches at Valhalla last weekend, the action resembled either a rude and raucous Adam Sandler movie or a heart-rending melodrama in which the Greatest Country on Earth took back its rightful place in global golf.
Depends on which side of "the pond" you come from.
Golfers riding their drivers like crazed cowboys, golfers wind-milling their arms and whipping the crowd into a frenzy after bad shots by their opponents, golfers staring down their opponents like Darth Vader with a laser.
I haven't mentioned the fans yet, have I?
"I expected them to get behind the American team, which they did, but some people don't know the difference between supporting their team and abusing the opposition team, which is unfortunate," Lee Westwood said.
Like Colin Montgomerie before him, Westwood seemed to be the favorite European target of American fans desperate to win after the long losing streak by the U.S.
Maybe that's because he was the one European who seemed the most distracted by the taunts and insults.
There were the crude references to his mother, the incident where a fan jumped out in front of him dressed as a ghost and late-night phone calls to both him and his father before the Sunday singles matches.
Even if you were rooting for the American team, you had to feel for a defeated Westwood, who dejectedly lamented the fact that the "gentleman" has left the building as well as the game of golf.
True enough, the last gentleman in the Ryder Cup Matches might have been Jack Nicklaus, who conceded the putt to Tony Jacklin on the final hole in 1969 that enabled Europe to earn a tie.
Whose fault is this? Or is there even a finger to be pointed?
Emily Post might have said manners have almost disappeared completely from modern life, and so why not golf?
Ryder Cup officials have consistently worked to rid the event of heckling after incidents at Brookline Country Club in 1999, when Montgomerie and his wife caught hell from American fans.
Yet, it is these same officials who wink, nudge and encourage the increasingly intense media buildup before the Matches.
You can't have it both ways.
When the Ryder Cup was a relatively under-publicized affair, the players could afford to be gallant. Nobody really cared that much who won, certainly not the public.
But that was when the U.S. was dominant. When Europe started daring to whup up on the home boys, things started to heat up.
Now the Ryder Cup Matches have become the Super Bowl of golf, even more tension-fraught because it happens only every other year.
These guys are under a major media microscope. So when American Captain Paul Azinger tells U.S. fans at a pep rally it's okay to cheer after a European hits a bad shot, it makes big news.
That would have been unthinkable back in the days of Nicklaus and Jacklin.
I'm not sure this is necessarily a bad thing, at least if you favor the concept of golf getting increased attention from the public.
Who hasn't wondered how these guys would perform if they faced the sort of noise and distraction football, baseball and basketball players do?
More Sandler, less Nicklaus.
Why are golfers so exempt from the noisy, everyday world?
Then again, imagine Tiger Woods standing over a 10-foot putt at the Masters on Sunday with people screaming something about his mother.
Not such a pretty picture, is it?
The Ryder Cup Matches have become so big - mainly because of the media's voracious interest - that they may have forfeited golf's hallowed civility. This is what inevitably happens when a polite little event grows into a matter of national pride before a mass, almost worldwide sporting audience.
I'm betting that if you secretly polled Ryder Cup officials, they'd approve.
Believe me, it will only get worse. The 2010 Ryder Cup Matches are in Wales. You may have read European, particularly British, newspapers. They make our guys look like cupcakes.
So we may as well accept the sad fact that golf - Ryder Cup golf, in any case - has said fare thee well to the gentleman.
If you disagree, to hell with you.
September 29, 2008
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
With the steadily increasing media spotlight on the Ryder Cup Matches, will the once-dignified biennial matchup between U.S. and European golfers become just like any other rowdy sporting event?
... full article »