Golf got it right. The best players play in all the majors and most of them play in the big tourneys. It’s world-wide competiton that, because it’s an individual sport, naturally produces stars. They’re recognizable, they’re “understandable,” and they’re all over the place - TV, magazines, billboards. It’s always been a rich man’s game but more and more “lesser income” kids have been getting involved. Now, a program called “First Tee” is reaching out even more. Imagine better athletes who couldn’t afford to play golf deciding, “This is a pretty cool sport - and I can play it a loooong time, making BIG bucks into my 50s and 60s.”
Golf also has the Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup is team golf- the US vs. Europe. The twelve best from each group. Intense is a perfect word to describe the competition. Millionaires playing a game in which other people (not their posses) are dependent on them. Other people as in their peers. It’s not just “I do well, I reap the benefits. I fail, I don’t get paid.” Now it’s, “Hey, how I do affects other golfers beside just me.” The pressure increases exponentially. Missing a five foot putt and losing a half a mil pales in comparison to missing it and losing a point for your partner. And your team. And your country. Note: I wasn’t very good in world geography but this blog is written for residents of the US of A only. When my international numbers skyrocket - or enter single digits - I’ll make the post geographically correct.
Plus, it’s not overdone. The Ryder Cup is played only every two years. Make the people wait - increase interest, increase excitement, increase pressure. Of course, the Ryder Cup’s success begat the Presidents Cup which is the US vs. non-European players - also biennially, during the off-years. There’s no reason to think America’s fan base can’t handle this team format on an annual basis. Heck, every other sport is so saturated, mainly because if there’s a buck to be made, somebody out there will sponsor it, corporations will buy blocks of tickets, television will air it, etc., etc., etc.
This year’s Ryder Cup has its own identity, from Bubba Watson encouraging fans to cheer, i.e. scream during his opening drive to Keegan Bradley exhibiting the enthusiasm of a college substitute who hit the game-winner to send his team to the Final Four to . . . Tiger Woods. The former #1 in the world (and, at one time, talked about as, gasp, the best golfer of all-time) has hit the skids professionally, stuck on 14 major titles (we should all be “stuck” in such a tough place) and struggling to find, or remake, his game.
Tiger is 0-3 so far this Ryder Cup (this blog is published prior to his Sunday single pairing against Francesco Molinari). If you’re a Tiger fan, it’s agonizing to see him, along with friend and partner Steve Stricker self-destruct each time out - although Friday afternoon I’m not sure any pair in the world could have beaten Nicolas Colsaerts and . . . anybody. Or even nobody. As any competitor knows, when things aren’t going your way, the last thing you need is to play against a guy who’s having a career day. Colsaerts’ eight birdies and an eagle - by himself - qualified. So if Tiger is not your favorite, did/do you root against him, meaning the team he’s on - representing your country - could also lose? Really?
In the 1920s Samuel Ryder was so impressed with the US playing against their European counterparts, he donated food, champagne, prize money and, oh yeah, a cup to insure more meetings. The Ryder Cup is a true example of Thomas Watson’s quote:
“The great accomplishments of man have resulted from the transmission of an idea of enthusiasm.”