Tom Powers column: Ryder Cup will never be the same
CHASKA, Minn. — Pull in that pinky finger and remove the linen napkin from your lap. It’s a different event now. The staid, starchy Ryder Cup has become the infield at Talladega, a seat with the Baseline Bums in San Antonio, an 18-hole international version of the madcap 16th at the Phoenix Open.
Strawberries and cream? Oh, no — hot dogs and cheap beer all around.
After a prolonged drought, the Ryder Cup has been reclaimed by the American side. Led by the emotional, volatile Patrick Reed — a perfect hero for the new raucous environment — the U.S. took care of business in Sunday’s singles matches to finish with a winning margin of 17-11.
Also important is the fact that the amped-up — but not really disrespectful — crowds at Hazeltine National ensured that this event forevermore will be a high-octane, biennial party. The Europeans will be ready to let loose in 2018, and that’s great because there is room for this type of tournament every two years.
“I think it’s the fans,” Reed said of his 18-hole adrenaline rush against Rory McIlroy. “It’s the first time I’ve ever played in a home crowd. To have these guys do what they did, to have the team come together and, when we’re down, having these crowds picking us up and cheering our names, it gets you going and keeps you going.”
“I’ve never been part of anything like it in my life,” American member Brandt Snedeker said. “I’m so excited for the guys, so excited for the USA.”
Yes, it’s refreshing to hear something other than “quiet, please” on a golf course. And it’s much more fun seeing people raising their arms to encourage the spectators rather than gesturing palms down to silence them.
The supposedly unrefined atmosphere did absolutely nothing to affect the quality of play. In fact, it was some of the best golf we’ve ever seen. The Phil Mickelson vs. Sergio Garcia match was fantastic and fittingly ended with a half-point for each. It was beautiful to watch.
“It was amazing,” Garcia agreed. “Obviously, to shoot 9-under and end up tying the match is heartbreaking. But I gave it everything I had. I don’t think I could have done anything differently.”
“I think we had 20 birdies between us,” Mickelson said — actually it was 19. “It was a fun day.”
The marquee matchup — McIlroy facing the brassy Reed — also was a thing of beauty, complete with finger-wagging and mugging for the crowd. Reed managed to edge an equally fired-up McIlroy for a full point.
McIlroy has been a bit of a target here at Hazeltine. The fans have been giving it to him, and he has been giving it right back. Sunday was no different.
“I think the fans as a whole have been very good and very fair, but just the very small minority are the people that sort of ruined it for everyone else,” McIlroy said. “But, no. Look, it’s been played for the most part in a very respectable but tough environment.”
Wait for it … here it comes …
“When the Americans come over and play on our side, they find it tough, as well,” he added. “Hopefully, we can give them a good fight in a couple of years’ time.”
Remember that the 2018 Ryder Cup will be held in Paris, where there will be more rudeness just on the way to the golf course than there was at any given hole at Hazeltine.
Also keep in mind that in 2024, the tournament will be held at Bethpage in New York. That should serve as sort of a nuclear deterrent for anyone who wants to seriously act up over there. New Yorkers can take your typical Euro soccer crowd and chew it up for breakfast.
Anyway, I’ve never understood how a baseball player can stand in against a 98 mph fastball while 40,000 people scream, yet a golfer can’t concentrate on his stationary ball if a person clears his throat from within 100 yards. So, every two years, yeah, let’s change it up a little bit. The Europeans were great sports about it. Especially Rory.
I also can tell you from first-hand research on the Emerald Isle that Rory didn’t hear anything at Hazeltine that he hadn’t heard in an Irish pub. Of course, the beer really is so much better there that those vulgarities tend to sound more melodic.
So take that, Europe. And I’m including Liechtenstein and Albania in there, too. Europe is Europe. In fact, take that, Putin. Get your cowbells and air horns ready for 2018. Get fired up as if it’s Manchester United vs. Liverpool or Real Madrid vs. Barcelona. Let your hair down. Get loud.
We won’t mind a bit.
Tom Powers is a sports columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.