Thursday, September 30, 2010

Golf At It's Loudest: The Ryder Cup

By Tony Mangia


The first time I heard of The Ryder Cup I didn't care because it sounded too NASCAR-y. When I found out it was an international golf tournament, I was attracted even less. Interest in this 83 year-old challenge between U.S. and European golf teams aren't exactly on my annual bucket list but then, at Celtic Manor in Wales this year, the trash-talking started. If a truck-leasing company wasn't the sponsor, maybe it should be. Who would have guessed that all the manners and etiquette of Augusta would fly off the fairway into the water hazard of non-protocol. This is the weekend that pro-golf turns into it's version of the WWE.

The biennial tournament seems to bring out the worst in the crowds and the players alike. It is the original Dream Team of international sports play. The participants compete for a trophy, but more importantly they play for bragging rights and pride. I've never heard of countrymen getting into a bar fight over a Ryder Cup result, but it sure hits a pressure point with the competitors.

I admit my ignorance of the finer points of golf. I still can't comprehend a game where you can lose by not signing a card---after play! I surely didn't realize that Europe's captain, Colin Montgomerie, was such a reviled man in U.S golfing circles. Seems that as a competitor, he was known as "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Tuna" by American fans--and not in a cuddly way-- due to his resemblance to the film character and ex-Patriots head coach---and formerly hefty---Bill Parcells.

The outspoken Scot was taunted by the raucous Sawx gallery at Brookline, Mass. in 1999. Now as captain of Europe's 2010 team, he has already ruffled some feathers. He left popular Paul Casey of England off the squad and told his players to stop using Twitter and other social-networking gadgets. In fairness to Monty, the U.S. captain, Corey Pavin, has also asked his team be advised not to tweet. It could distract from the play on the greens. Maybe he can get Tiger Woods to lecture the team on the dangers of texting too.


Speaking of Tiger, it was kind of sad to see him exit the team plane without a significant other. This will be Tiger's first Ryder Cup without his ex-wife Elin. While the other members of the U.S. team disembarked from their plane with their wives and girlfriends, Tiger looked sadly alone. There's always that porn star in nearby London. Tiger's divorce combined with his poor showing since the scandal will surely add fodder to the heckling of the rowdy Wales gallery.

Montgomerie was overheard saying he "wouldn't have picked Tiger for my team." A statement the blustery captain denies. European player, Rory McIlroy said he "wants a piece of Tiger" and "fancies" playing the slumping American. Pavin said, "If it happens, it would be entertaining." Montgomerie explains things differently. He said, "No, I almost want to avoid the situation." Pavin's in-your-face response, "Tiger will make Rory pay." That's about as much trash-talking you will find in golf. No blood spilled but no green jackets being gently put on either.

Its hard to understand how the rules in the match-ups work at the Ryder. There are "foursomes", "four-balls," and "singles." No, it's not code for Tiger's hookups. There are even 1/2 points. The U.S. won last year after a six year drought. The atmosphere will be boisterous and the crowds will be hostile towards Woods and the U.S. contingent. He has something to prove and many expect him to dominate. The golf world awaits that first roar.

Americans won't be putting up Old Glory for this weekend's event. No USA! USA! It'll be the big drivers of the U.S. and the precise putting of the Europeans on lush greens overseas fed to network TV. What passes for bloodsport in golf is a fan getting bopped by an errant shot. The biggest story might be the possibility of Woods getting paired with Phil Mickelson. "Why don't you just hold your breath and we'll see Friday," smiled Mickelson. Wow! You think barflies will be pondering that scenario or debating Montgomerie's plans to play in the Ryder Cup two years from now? As "Lefty" said, "Just hold your breath."

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