Ry­der Cup Prob­lem

The match has be­come big­ger than golf

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - The Golf Life - By john hug­gan

n so many ways the Ry­der Cup is a unique event. And the vast ma­jor­ity of those ways lead to a pos­i­tive con­clu­sion. Cer­tainly, no other week on the golf cal­en­dar pro­motes as much raw ex­cite­ment and pas­sion as does the bi­en­nial con­test be­tween the Old and New Worlds. It is some­thing for our game to be proud of. Apart from one thing. Sadly, the crowds at Hazel­tine Na­tional, while dom­i­nated by real and true fans with no agenda other than cheer­ing for their team, con­tained a siz­able rogue el­e­ment, one seem­ingly ig­no­rant of golf’s tra­di­tional eti­quette.Time and again dur­ing the United States’ 17-11 vic­tory, the matches were scarred by vitriol from specta-

Itors to­wards the vis­it­ing side that some­times es­ca­lated into ex­changes with play­ers. Most of such prob­lems are, in­evitably, al­co­hol-in­duced. The num­ber of empty beer cans lit­ter­ing the premises was tes­ti­mony to that un­savoury truth. It prob­a­bly ex­plained what hap­pened on Satur­day af­ter­noon by the sev­enth green, when a mem­ber of the gallery screamed some­thing es­pe­cially vile at Rory McIl­roy. It led to an un­cer­tain 45 sec­onds, be­fore se­cu­rity in­ter­vened, in which McIl­roy stepped to­wards his tor­men­tor and barked back,“If you want to back that up, I’m right here.”

Thank­fully, phys­i­cal con­fronta­tion has yet to darken the Ry­der Cup’s door. But it would be best not to get com­pla­cent, even if so much of the yelling and scream­ing has more to do with at­ten­tion-seek­ing than any­thing else. The PGA of Amer­ica was at­tuned to the pos­si­bil­i­ties, and on Satur­day and Sun­day made sure the pub­lic could see its “zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy” re­gard­ing “any fans who are dis­rup­tive in any way, in­clud­ing the use of vul­gar or pro­fane lan­guage directed at the play­ers.”

Part of the prob­lem, of course, is that the Ry­der Cup is one of golf’s pre­mier shop win­dows. So it can be ar­gued that a bit of crowd trou­ble is no more than the price we must pay for “grow­ing the game.” As lead­ing sport psy­chol­o­gist Dr Bob Rotella pointed out as he walked with the open­ing Satur­day af­ter­noon four­ball:“This is all about ap­peal­ing to the non­golfer.That’s why ev­ery hole is set up for birdies.”

There is also a cul­tural as­pect to this clear di­vide be­tween two peo­ples who, in al­most ev­ery other way, are al­lies.We’re talk­ing about two very dif­fer­ent out­looks on what sup­port for a team ac­tu­ally en­tails.An ex­am­ple: Stand­ing maybe 150 me­tres from the 10th tee on Satur­day af­ter­noon, a young Amer­i­can bel­lowed, “Let’s go, Jor­dan!” There was lit­tle prospect of Spi­eth hear­ing or ac­knowl­edg­ing this rather point­less en­cour­age­ment. No mat­ter, it was given any­way. Then, a few sec­onds later, a ter­ri­bly posh English ac­cent much nearer the tee was heard to say, “Give us a wave, Justin.”

Per­haps most in­her­ent to the Ry­der Cup is that it draws so many cross­over fans who bring the same kind of vo­cif­er­ous root­ing (and razz­ing) be­hav­iours that are nor­mal at big team sport venues.

And so it goes on, with no ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion. Or maybe there is, at least on those oc­ca­sions when a player is dis­turbed by heck­ling while stand­ing over a ball ready to putt.When and if that hap­pens, the putt should im­me­di­ately be con­ceded by the op­po­nent. Know­ing that any at­tempt to dis­tract will be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive is per­haps the only way to coun­ter­act this can­cer threat­en­ing to per­vade the Ry­der Cup.

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