CHASKA, MN—The 41st Ryder Cup Matches held at Hazeltine National Golf Club provided the venue for a determined American squad top recapture the Cup for the fist time in eight years and only the third time in the last 11 matches.
While the event was most exciting there are a few elements which could bear reviewing for the next installment in two years in Paris.
*Look to schedule the matches a bit sooner on the golfing calendar.
Pushing the matches into October is taking a huge risk weather can very well impact what happens. Although the weather in the Twin Cities area was sensational for the duration of the event — there have been times when such late dates have proved to backfire. The 2010 Matches in Wales were plagued by continuous rain and temperatures were far from ideal. The Matches in Minnesota were quite fortunate to have anything close to that happen. Getting the Matches played immediately after Labor Day could prove ideal. This would minimize the overlap with college and professional football. A greater coordination with the various professional golf tours can make this a reality if the desire is there to do so.
*Have all players play each of the matches.
For years, the Ryder Cup has had a format in which four players must sit out each of the four team sessions. This has enabled the side with the weaker line-up to “hide” such players from playing. Having them play all of the Matches would then require the respective Captains to think long and hard how to position their line-up accordingly. The team with the superior depth should not be penalized because the other team can simply sit its weaker players.
*Have Captains select openly their match choices.
Right now the respective Captains provide their line-ups in a blind fashion at the same time. Having the Captains meet and then select the players would add even more appeal. Since the team that hosts has an advantage — it would work best for the home team to announce its first match followed by the visiting Captain then making his choice. The entire line-ups would be selected with this approach. Having the Captains do so on camera would only add more interest to their strategic thinking.
*Limit attendance at the event.
The crowds at Hazeltine were impressive — 45,000 to 50,000 — but they also proved to be nightmarish for fans of the game seeking to watch play in some sort of meaningful fashion. The wherewithal to watch players play was just about impossible during the first two days of team play. Even during the Singles Matches the amount of people were still so numerous as to prevent many from seeing the action firsthand. As a result, many people who purchased tickets were reduced to watching action via a jumbotron television at different locations at Hazeltine.
*Cut alcohol sales.
For the most part the crowds at Hazeltine were respectful of the players and in using appropriate golf etiquette. That was not the case for some. Much of that can be attributed to robust alcohol sales. Clearly, sports events such as The Ryder Cup will have alcohol present because of the money provided. But when unruly people (albeit a few) interact with the players — most notably Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia — it sullies the event. European Captain Darren Clarke said the behavior was 99% fine — but it’s no less important to keep the 1% who opt to do otherwise to keep that total from growing. Cutting off alcohol sales by 1:00 PM of each day of the Matches can help in that regard.
It would also help if the organizers on each side of the pond take a very strong and clear position so that the Matches are won solely by the players and not by those seeking to influence the outcome.
M. James Ward, a member of Golf Writer’s Association of America (GWAA) and past member of Met Golf Writer’s Association (MGWA), has reported on golf’s grandest events since 1980 in a variety of forums.