Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Only Golf That Matters

I'll be gone the rest of the week--as I attend the Ryder Cup Matches at Medinah Country Club in Chicago.  I've had this weekend circled on the calendar for at least six or seven years now--ever since Medinah was announced as the host site of the matches.  In my sports world, the Ryder Cup is second only to Olympic Hockey in terms of importance--and a Team USA victory is ALL that matters.

The Ryder Cup combines two of my favorite things: Match play golf and Team USA vs everybody else.  Match play is the purest form of competition.  None of this "the leader is 6-under after three rounds" stuff.  It is just you and your opponent for 18-holes--may the better man win.  And it has led to some classic forms of gamesmanship over the years, bad blood between individuals and even accusations of flat-out cheating.  And I admit that I am jingoistic--so you put the Stars and Stripes on golf bags, shirts and caps, I'm rooting big time for the Red, White and Blue.

Over the years, the Ryder Cup has produced such emotional highs and lows.  I pointed at the tv and taunted
Bernhard Langer as he missed a five foot putt that would have retained the Cup for the Euros in 1991.  I wanted to run around the Lambeau Field press box just like Justin Leonard and his teammates ran around the green after his incredible putt capped off a miraculous comeback on the final day by the US in 1999 (I was covering the Packers-Seahawks Sunday night game at Lambeau that day--Mike Holmgren's return to Green Bay as you recall--and they were nice enough to put the Ryder Cup on one of the tv's for me to watch).  And I guffawed when Boo Weekley rode his driver like it was a horse galloping down the fairway during the rout of 2008.

On the other hand, I wanted to punch the tv after Curtis Strange collapsed down the stretch to blow the Cup in 1995.  I wanted to strangle Captain Hal Sutton when he paired Tiger Woods and Phil Mickleson--who had ZERO interest in playing together--during the debacle that was the 2004 matches.  And I'm man enough to admit that I cried right along with Hunter Mahan when he broke down during the post-match press conference two years ago after chili-dipping a chip on the last hole to lose the Cup.

There are some in the golfing community who think my passion for the Ryder Cup is misplaced.  None other than Jack Nicklaus thinks it's only an "exhibition" and that it really shouldn't matter who wins or loses (ironic for a guy who played on USA teams that won every time).  The Europeans think US fans "celebrate too much"--while people like me will never forget the Euros dancing on the 18th green after clinching the 1987 Cup.  My point is, if you are going to have a sporting competition, then everybody may as well play to win.  Otherwise, we should hand out participation ribbons at the end, instead of a gold trophy.

So, I'll be on the course for the next few days--living and dying with every shot and every putt--whooping it up for every hole and match won by the US--and cursing under my breath every European success.  And win or lose, on Sunday night I'll be looking forward to September 26th thru the 28th of 2014--when the matches are contested again in Scotland.  And I will already be planning for Ryder Cup 2020 at Whistling Straits.

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