Chaska - When players broke away from the PGA of America in 1968
to form what is now the PGA Tour, two properties had to be divided. The tour
took the lucrative World Series of Golf at Firestone. The PGA of America was
saddled with the Ryder Cup, which attracted hardly any attention in the U.S.
look at it now.
count the more than 150,000 fans over three days who roamed Hazeltine, standing
a dozen deep, shoulder to shoulder, and filled every grandstand even when a
match was an hour from getting to that hole.
the latest example that the Ryder Cup has become the biggest spectacle in golf
(but only because the Masters would never want "spectacle" to be
associated with its tournament). The Phoenix Open boasts of record attendance,
but those figures tend to be inflated and half the crowd isn't even interested
at Hazeltine was incredible.
the brutish behaviour that comes with such an enormous crowd that should make
the PGA of America pause.
stories players once shared from the Ryder Cup used to be about how nervous
they were on the first tee. Now the stories are about the verbal abuse from the
American fans — certainly not the majority, but enough to leave a bad taste.
got called a turd, which is the first time since I was about 12 years old, so
it made me feel young again," said Lee Westwood, trying to make light of a
were raw Sunday night, and the crude comments from the gallery became a popular
topic among the Europeans. This wasn't sour grapes. They simply were answering
questions. They gave full credit to the putting and prowess of the Americans
that led to a 17-11 victory.
from now, the 41st edition of these matches will be remembered for shots from
the players, not shouts from a few unruly fans.
lasting image from Hazeltine will be Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy producing a
four-hole stretch that instantly became part of Ryder Cup lore, especially on
the par-3 eighth hole. McIlroy holed a 60-foot putt and cupped a hand to his
ear to bait the crowd. Reed answered with a 25-foot putt and wagged his finger
at McIlroy. Both players laughed, bumped fists and patted each other on the
back. It was great theatre that defined the spirit of these matches.
moment was more painful than Westwood missing two short putts, including a
2-foot birdie attempt on the 18th hole that cost Europe a crucial point going
into the final day. No one match was more compelling than Phil Mickelson and
Sergio Garcia combining for 19 birdies in a singles match that fittingly ended
in a draw.
sullied this week was the crowd.
got into it with one vulgar fan, stopping to confront him and asking that he be
removed. Thomas Pieters was about to take his putter back on a 4-footer to
halve the hole in a foursomes match when some genius screamed out, "Hit it
in the water."
cheering and jeering at the Ryder Cup is unlike any other golf event.
were indications early that Hazeltine might be over the top, however. Fans tend
to wait a second or two when the visitors hit a bad shot before cheering the
good fortune of the home team. As early as Friday morning, cheers for Europe's
bad shots were loud and immediate. Andy Sullivan hit a tee shot into the water
on the 17th hole and cheers rang out before there was so much as a ripple in
want to play this tournament in the manner in which it should be played,"
McIlroy said. "The American gallery are fantastic. They really are. We
play week in, week out on the PGA Tour, and they couldn't be nicer to us. They
greet us like we are one of their own. But this week, at times, it went a
little bit too far."
of America stepped in, but not until Sunday when the Americans had a
three-point lead. It urged fans to be passionate and respectful, and pledged a
"zero tolerance policy" to remove anyone who was disruptive and
shouted profanities at players.
Americans don't have an easy time when they play the Ryder Cup in Europe,
though the tone is undeniably different. American fans tend to make it
personal. Maybe that's a product of having lost the Ryder Cup too many times
over the last 20 years.
there are simply too many fans on the course for 32 matches over three days.
more tickets is only going to increase the odds of having more bad eggs who
give American fans a bad name. It started at Brookline. It isn't getting
better. If the PGA of America is not careful, the biggest spectacle in golf is
going to become a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.