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How I learned to stop worrying and love the Ryder Cup

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By now you know it’s Ryder Cup time and golf is sliding into its “Keeping up with the Kardashians” moment, as it does every two years. OMG what are they wearing? Who is paired with who? And, God forbid, a wardrobe malfunction or a presser coup-d’état against leadership happens. So much drama.

While there was never a moment I cared about the Kardashians, there was a time when Ryder Cup Fever had me losing my mind every other September. I was a flaky 19-year-old in 1991, and I caught none of the hoopla at Kiawah and the War by the Shore. I didn’t really get the golf-bug until I was away at college and Tiger Woods won his third U.S. Am in a row. By the time Justin Leonard sank “the putt” in Brookline I was full-blown, out-of-my mind Ryder Cup crazy.

The following years didn’t help much: you know the drill. Massive, lopsided losses. Our “favored” team getting thrashed by the likes of David Gilford or Victor Dubuisson or That Guy who wore the Sergio Costume & Putted Better than The Real Sergio Ever Could. Those guys were busy beating Phil, Tiger, David and Dustin and everyone else. This didn’t stop me; no, rather it emboldened me. I argued with Euros about how good we really were. I built a spreadsheet once, in a moment of futile sadness, that showed how superior our American team was. American wins, putting averages, strength of field stuff – all very neatly organized. We lost that year. By a lot.

I soldiered on.

I forgave Hal Sutton for pairing Tiger and Phil. Then I changed my mind. I was on-site all week at Valhalla in 2008, my dad and me. While I’m not positive, I’m pretty sure our Valhalla crew started the sarcastic call-back to the Euro chants of “Ole” by mocking them with “No way, no way, no way, no way – nooo waaayy, NOOO WAAAY” as Anthony Kim walked around high-fiving everything, even trees, flagsticks, random Euro fans, everything, the dude was awesome that year. Maybe we didn’t start it, but considering the bloodbaths in the years before, it sure felt like the first time ever. I bled with the rest of us the very next year when we gave the trophy right back. To this day I partly blame the gods of Sky and Rain for what happened at Celtic Manor. Seriously, who holds a Worldwide Sensational Tournament at the Bottom of the Ocean (some call it Wales) in September? But I was still all-in on Team USA.

I was a smack-talking fool in 2012 as we marched into singles Sunday, where, clearly, we always won anyway. (This was the salve that soothed me all those years, about how the Euros usually won some archaic format we never played like “four ball” or “foursomes” – but singles – that was the real test of who’s better). Then …we…lost… on Sunday. The Meltdown at Medinah sealed it. It broke me. I said foul things about our boys, our coaches, even the WAGS and the clothing choices and the fans. All of it. I was done. Not watching again, not caring, bah humbug.

This was my way for 23 months.

Then, well, you know…I’d watch again. See what happened. The Tom Watson hanging party is what happened. We lost (again), thus validating my abandonment of the event. Now listen, I get it; it would be easy to say I was spent/done/over on the Ryder Cup because we sucked at it. Which would be mostly true. But giving up gave me: perspective. I went into 2016 with a curiosity I hadn’t had in years. There was this Task Force, which, with perspective, is freaking hilarious. I assume at their secret HQ they considered capes at one point and I promise you Tiger has an invisible plane from his time spent with the SEALs. Was this going to work? Like, really work?

And then, holey moley, it worked. They won.

But what was I watching? What got me fired up?

I was thoroughly enjoying the spectacle of it all. It’s an exhibition. I know you’re all like “OK, Jack Nicklaus, I get it, blah blah.” But ole’ Jackie has got it right. It’s a blast to not care who wins it. I mean, c’mon that Rory-Reed match was flat-out fantastic. Then right behind it, That Guy who wore the Sergio Costume & Putted Better than The Real Sergio Ever Could was in a barn-burner with Phil. It was great to watch, fun to see what happened. I was glued to the set, but not once was I in a screaming mood. There wasn’t that lump in my throat watching a Euro line up an 80ft putt through a clown’s mouth, 2 bunkers and pure mud and worrying he’d actually make it. I just wanted to enjoy watching what happened – I was there for the exhibition of it all. Watching the best in the world, for Glory only, no money (not really anyway) throwing giant haymakers at each other. All for giggles, nothing else. Brilliant!

I’ll watch a lot of the show in France later this month; will I pull for Team USA? Of course I will. But I’m not too wound up to care what happens; there will be no screaming at the TV, no lumps in my throat. We are heavily favored, again, which if the last 30 years is right, means the Team Euro is gonna really enjoy this one. I won’t even care if Webb pops his tee ball up on the first tee again.

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A married father of 3 daughters (who cheer competitively, pray for me), Chris routinely takes his life in his hands by asking his wife to play golf all over Indiana. Deftly chiseling his handicap down from 18 to 8 in just 20 short years, his dedication to being a first-class golf nerd comes full circle as he documents the far reaches of his brain in printed word. He spends most days fiendishly plotting to replace Matt Ginella. If you're playing in the Indy area and a man wearing pink golf pants and chomping on a cigar is describing a golf bet so complicated only he can win it, tell my wife I'll be home in an hour.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Greg V

    Sep 14, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Funny, I’m an American, but I like to pull for the Euros. All those years when the Texans won easily deserves payback.

    • Kevin

      Sep 14, 2018 at 4:56 pm

      Pulling for the Euros, your no American! You should be ashamed of yourself and I am ashamed for you.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Flightscope’s Alex Trujillo on why all golfers need shot data technology

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In this episode of the GearDive, Johnny chats with Alex Trujillo Sr. Sales Manager for Flightscope about understanding data, how information can make sense to your average golfer, why everyone should utilize data, and the downside of too much data.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

An ode to Lee Westwood

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Lee Westwood secured his 24th European Tour victory last week in South Africa, ending a winless streak that lasted over three years, and showing once again the resiliency that has proven to be a cornerstone in his potentially Hall of Fame career. The victory brought an emotional Westwood to tears as he proved that perhaps, at 45 years old, he should not be counted out just yet. This was his third time hoisting the Nedbank Golf Challenge trophy, and Westwood surmised that he “still got it, I guess.”

Indeed, he does, beating out a solid field that included the likes of Rory McIlroy, a hot Sergio Garcia, and Louis Oosthuizen.

Westwood’s career is characterized by a sort of blue collar style of golf. Even in his younger days he was never the longest off the tee, he doesn’t have the smoothest or most beautiful swing, his short game is at times questionable, and he has often been plagued by an inconsistent flat stick. Westwood’s strength has been his ball striking. His recognizable and repeatable quick dip into the ball is usually followed by a precisely and purely struck shot executed just as he envisioned it, a move which he has used to claim over 40 professional wins.

After breaking onto the scene with his first European Tour win in 1996, Westwood was a mainstay in the top 25 of the Official World Golf Rankings from ’97 to much of 2001, but after a promising start, he plummeted to as low as 266th in the world in 2003, just when he should have been entering his prime. He rebuilt his game and scaled the world rankings once again, this time joining elite company in reaching the coveted top spot in golf in 2010 and again in 2011, for a total of 22 weeks. This comeback of sorts is rare in golf, as many players who lose their form never quite recapture the magic they once had. The longevity of Westwood’s career speaks to his fighting spirit and belief in himself, even through the disappointment that golf often thrusts upon its participants.

Westwood’s three runner up finishes in majors hardly paints the picture of his 80 attempts on golf’s grandest stage. He has 11 top fives and nine top threes, all of which are made more heartbreaking by the fact that the ultimate goal remained elusive for the Englishman. He barely missed out on two of the most famous playoffs in major championship history: Tiger Woods edging out Rocco Mediate in maybe the most dramatic U.S. Open ever in 2008, and Bubba Watson’s heroic hook shot from the trees at Augusta to beat Oosthuizen in 2010. These two near misses seem to serve as an unfortunate microcosm for Westwood’s major championship career in that he played a lot of great golf, was often in the mix on Sunday, but ultimately failed to grab a piece of history.

Westwood plays most of his golf overseas, and his relative quietness on the PGA Tour likely contributes to his under appreciation in the United States, as he has just two wins to his credit, one in ’98 and another in 2010. While much focus will always be directed toward his missing major victory, Westwood’s resume is world class, including nine Ryder Cups and a superb singles and team record, three European Tour Golfer of the Year awards in ’98, ‘00, and ‘09, and the all time leading money winner on the European Tour.

In Westwood’s case, it is important not to confuse missed opportunities with failure. His career will finish with many “what-ifs,” but that should not take away from the greatness of it. With a quirky swing and at times a balky putter, Westwood is nonetheless absolutely an all-timer and class act who should be a household name in discussing the last two decades of professional golf.

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Oak Hollow Golf Club in High Point, North Carolina

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here! 

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was posted by GolfWRX member thejuice, who submitted Oak Hollow Golf Club in High Point, North Carolina, as his hidden gem of a golf course. In his description, thejuice charts out what exactly he loves about the course, and why the Pete Dye designed track is now going to be his go-to-stop in North Carolina.

“It’s a Pete Dye design that has a lot of the unfair Dye slopes in the greens, with the normal Pete Dye risk/reward setup on several holes.  I played it with some cousins during my family reunion and thought it was fantastic.”

“We normally play Starmount Forest (I’m a ClubCorp member), Grandover, or Bryan Park (both have 36 holes, and both are fine facilities), but I think I want to make Oak Hollow my preferred course when I go to visit my NC fam.  For the price, it just can’t be beaten.  I think we paid $40 on a Saturday morning (8 am tee time) and it was definitely worth more than that with several holes on a large lake and excellent fairways and greens.”

Sounds good, right? Well according to Oak Hollow Golf Club’s website, that Saturday morning rate comes with a cart, and should you want to play during the week, an 18 hole round will set you back just $33. They have plenty of specials listed on their site too, but the one that stands out the most is the 18 hole weekday walking fee, which costs only $17.

@rcausey25

@TeamSC11

@HPCBison_Golf

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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