Nearly a month ago, I wrote about some unwritten rules in sports that bothered me, one being uptight, traditionalist golfers. If you watched the Ryder Cup over the weekend — and I hope you did — you got a glimpse of how golf could and should be.
It was a bit odd, and I’ll admit that this was really the first time I’ve sat down and watched the Ryder Cup. Maybe I was always too caught up in football season; maybe I didn’t really understand how the Ryder Cup worked.
First of all, the rules to the Ryder Cup automatically make it exciting. The PGA needs more match-play events.
Pairing two of the world’s best golfers in a 1-v-1 or 2-v-2 slugfest with the two sides trading blows is thrilling. Shots become even more calculated and critical because there’s less chance to respond to shanks and missed putts. Most matches don’t even go the full 18 holes.
It was the trash talk, though, that made this year’s Ryder Cup must-see TV.
Now, I’m a huge Tiger Woods fan. He’s delivered some of the most exciting rounds of golf ever to be played. The chip at the Masters, the ace at TPC Scottsdale. He was utterly dominant and changed golf for the better.
He didn’t even play in the 2016 Ryder Cup — or any tournament in 2016 for that matter — and it still trumped anything Woods has ever done.
Maybe it’s because most Americans are jerks, but the fans at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota were ruthless. It’s too bad Rory McIlroy didn’t gain strokes every time he was forced to step away from his ball, or he might have had a chance to beat Patrick Reed.
Fans wore eagle masks, American-flag printed sports coats and painted their chests. In a sport where pristine country clubs require members to wear collared shirts and slacks, the people watching painted their freaking chests! That’s amazing.
Bill Murray led a “USA” cheer, fans applauded every time a European hit a poor shot, and, just a hunch, plenty of beer was consumed.
Alan Tyers, who writes for the British newspaper, The Telegraph, described the scene, saying, “It feels to me like the shocked reaction of spoilt young men who temporarily had a short break from everyone respectfully telling them how wonderful they are.”
In a sport surrounded by rich, too-much-money-for-their-own-good old cranky men, we’ve got young hipsters slamming PBR tall boys and shouting at European golfers to hit every single shot in the water. Millennials, baby!
But on the other end, we had Rory McIlroy playing some of his best golf in months and screaming, celebrating and taunting the fans right back. The crowd fueled him to sink putt after putt and shove it all back in their faces — and rightfully so.
In the opening match of the final day, McIlroy and Reed looked like Steph Curry playing H-O-R-S-E against Steph Curry. McIlroy sank an ungodly long putt, put his hand to his ear and told the crowd he couldn’t hear them. Reed answered with another massive putt, turned and wagged his finger in McIlroy’s face.
The two laughed, bumped fists and went on to play even more absurd golf on the next hole.
Both players — and all players on the day, really — played out of their minds, despite the event being what one Associated Press columnist described as “a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.”
If we’re going to get matches like we got Friday through Sunday, that’s the kind of spectacle any casual golf fan can get behind.
If that’s not what you’re into, I’m sure your fancy country club’s ghastly monthly dues are far too high for fun people anyway.
Be right back. Painting my chest with Bill Murray for next week’s Safeway Open.