Pre-shot far from routine
It is becoming abundantly clear that the Ryder Cup is a highly popular event preceded by days and days of highly insignificant prattle.
The actual event will start Friday, amid the rolling hills of the Welsh countryside. The 12 best golfers from Europe will play the 12 best from the United States.
Huge crowds, perhaps approaching 50,000 each of the three days, will climb the hills, strain for better views, buy caps and Tshirts and tell their grandchildren about it for years to come.
Winning and losing has become a big deal. It wasn’t so until the U.S. team began to lose, even on its own soil, and then the American nationalistic Pavlovian dog started to kick in. After
years of doing so routinely, the U.S. has now failed to win on European soil since 1993. It’s like California. A 17-year drought.
All of this, of course, will play out over a weekend of drives and irons and putts. What happened a few days before the competition will matter little and be long forgotten.
But insignificance does not translate to lack of activity, and there was plenty of that Tuesday. Some of it was even fun.
European player Luke Donald, who graduated from Northwestern, plays the PGA Tour and is about as British now as Gomer Pyle, was asked if he was offered a spot on the U.S. team charter plane that left from Sunday’s PGA Tour Championship in Atlanta.
“No,” he said. “They said they had room, but only in the toilet.”
The Twitter controversy continued to rage. Both captains, Colin Montgomerie of Europe and Corey Pavin of the U.S., made the mistake a few days ago of telling the media that they had asked their players to cut out the social media stuff during the event. Now, as even mainstream media tend to trivialize everything, this has, amazingly, become a story. The tabloids call it Twittergate.
“I thought I was the captain of a golf team,” said the good-natured Montgomerie, “not the captain of a tweeting organization.”
U.S. team member Stewart Cink, apparently an avid tweeter or twitterer or twinker — whatever — responded to Pavin’s ban in his final offering by typing, “I guess I’ll have to pass the down time actually reading or something.”
U.S. team member Jim Furyk, after playing his first round here in a practice session Tuesday, was asked about the Twenty Ten course at the host Celtic Manor Resort. He indicated that the rough was long and penal.
“They were talking about making sure the captains keep their golf carts out of the rough,” Furyk said. “I think that’s because they were afraid they might lose them.”
He meant the carts, not the captains.
During down time in the media center, which was pretty much the entire day, Google searches were made of Pavin’s wife, Lisa, posing for the cover of a magazine called Avid Golfer. In a clear attempt to rouse the troops, she donned an American flag — only, an American flag. This could have been the sort of inspiration that brought Francis Scott Key to his “Oh, Say Can You See …”
Another inspirational sighting was on the finalhole finish of Phil Mickelson’s and Bubba Watson’s practice round. No. 18 is a par five, playing about 575 yards. In front of the green is water, plus there is a false front that will kick balls not played high enough on the green back down into the drink. Watson, one of the game’s long hitters, went for the green in two, cleared the water and plopped his ball in the right trap, pin high. Mickelson, one of the game’s biggest hitters and gamblers, uncharacteristically laid up and pitched it to seven feet. Both made birdie putts. Depending on your sense of humor, there was even a laughable moment in Tiger Woods’ news conference. The beleaguered Woods, who has made the canned non-answer answer into an art form since he returned to face the media in the aftermath of his marital scandal, remained impenetrable in his response to the following question:
“You don’t win majors anymore, you don’t win regular tournaments anymore — and you are about to be deposed by Europeans as the world’s No. 1, or Phil Mickelson; where is the Ryder Cup now on your agenda, now that you are an ordinary golfer?”
The ordinary golfer, winner of 14 majors and 57 other main tour events, smiled and responded: “I hope you are having a good week.”
WARMUP ACTS: Stewart Cink, left, and Luke Donald got in some good lines before the Ryder Cup.