Some random thoughts on yet another American Ryder Cup ‘disaster’

Are any of you questioning the choice of the last word in my title? The Europeans did defeat the U.S. in the recently completed Ryder Cup matches — and it wasn’t close. Playing at the Le Golf National in Paris, France, the Euros took back the trophy by a 17 1/2-10 1/2 margin.

A sound thrashing, yes! But a disaster? There are some people who seem to think so. Here then are some of my thoughts on the Ryder Cup.

When I tune in to watch events like the Ryder Cup or even the Olympics, I don’t sit in my red, white and blue outfit and have that “must win” mentality. Of course I root for Americans, but what I really like to see is outstanding athletic performances, no matter who might achieve said feat.

To be perfectly honest, I also enjoy seeing the occasional errant shot at the Ryder Cup, because it makes me think “hey, I could do that!”

It is my considered opinion that I can write about the Ryder Cup because I have competed in it myself. Whoa… not THAT Ryder Cup. My golfing buddies and I have been taking a trip to Fort Wayne, Indiana for more than 20 years. On one day we have our own Ryder Cup competition. There are some similarities to the real event, though more differences exist to be sure, particularly the quality of the golf.

The U.S. and European Ryder Cup teams have a selection process for choosing participants. We simply ask people if they want to go. The real Ryder Cup captains make the pairings, but so do ours. Yes, we choose teams from the available rosters and our captains decide who will be paired with whom.

There was a story that circulated after this year’s Ryder Cup where Patrick Reed said he was blindsided by his pairing with Tiger Woods. He apparently thought he would be paired with Jordan Spieth, a partner he has had success playing with.

Whether Reed was unhappy or not is unclear, but he should see our reactions when we get our pairings. Surprise would be replaced with disbelief. Real Ryder Cup pairings try to match up strengths in each golfer’s games. We try to cover up weaknesses!

Our day starts with six holes of two-man scramble, followed by six holes of alternating shot and we finish with six holes of head to head play. The first and last six holes tend to be very competitive. The middle six holes tend to be mostly hysterical.

When our golfers head to the seventh tee, the apologies begin. Each guy knows he is going to put his playing partner in a bad spot, so we say we are sorry from the get go. The apologies continue throughout the six holes as some positions we put each other in are downright comical. Here’s an example:

One year my partner hit first off the tee. A short drive on a par 5, but not to worry, I’m going to blast a three-wood down the fairway to get us back on track, right? Well, not exactly.

My shot veered right toward a body of water over a small hill. As the ball disappears, we wonder if it will stay dry. Both carts head to look for the ball with both riders bailing out to search on foot for the elusive golf ball. My opponent and I (the cart drivers) discover the ball first. It is in relative shallow water close to the edge of the pond, but not playable in my view.

My opponent says “it’s playable if you want to entertain the clients.”

My quick retort… “It’s not my shot!”

That story was repeated after the round along with many others. We actually have a blast on this day. We might lose some sleep the night before, but once the day is over we head to a local watering hole and the kibitzing begins.

In the real Ryder Cup players take the match much more seriously. Apparently many fans do the same. Thus the term “disaster!” Was this loss all that bad? Well let’s look at some numbers. The U.S. team was in possession of the cup as they beat the Euros 17-11 in 2016. However, if you go back to 1995 – the last dozen competitions – Europe has won nine of them! For those that put a high premium on winning, this is NOT a good thing.

For me, some of the most positive takeaways from the most recent competition include three acts of sportsmanship. The first was U.S. captain Jim Furyk walking arm in arm with Paul Casey of the European team after his match. Likewise European captain Thomas Bjorn hugged American Brooks Koepka after he finished up on Sunday.

Those moments stick in my mind more than any drubbing that the U.S. team took. The third act involved Spain’s Jon Rahm who was paired in singles competition against Tiger Woods.

Rahm had a four foot putt to defeat Tiger only to have it skip by the hole giving Woods one last chance. On the next hole, Rahm sank a putt of similar length and it set off his emotions. Not only was it personal redemption, but it gave the Euros a big point. He reacted like anyone would have under similar circumstances.

He stopped the fist-pumping abruptly after a few seconds because he realized he needed to shake Tiger’s hand. Rahm is known to be very emotional on the course and I was surprised and pleasantly pleased that he was able to stop so quickly to do the sportsmanlike thing.

I guess I look at this competition a little differently from other people. It’s fun and interesting to watch. Winning is secondary for me and when the U.S. loses it is nothing remotely close to a disaster.

Hurricane Florence was a disaster. The western wildfires were a disaster. Hurricane Michael was a disaster. The Ryder Cup was a sporting event. No one died. No one lost their home or business.

A loss at a sporting event should never be considered a disaster!

Al Stephenson is The A-T’s golf columnist.

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