Less than a month to go before a little, ahem, “exhibition” match takes place at Celtic Manor, Wales. The phrase “golf was the winner” will get lots of airtime after the dust has settled. Here are a few thoughts as to why not everyone in golf is a winner when it comes the Ryder Cup:
- Rickie’s in, Rhys’s in the cart. Rickie Fowler’s selection to the U.S. Ryder Cup team brings into focus another causality of the indifference with which some PGA Tour-based Europeans viewed the Ryder Cup points race. Corey Pavin had the luxury to select one of the best young players in the U.S. Colin Montgomerie didn’t have the same leeway because Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington and Justin Rose didn’t do more to make his team. Wouldn’t it have been great if all four had made the team on merit, leaving Monty to select Davies? So one of Europe’s best young prospects will sit at the wheel of a cart for three days, while Rickie has a chance to influence the outcome of the Ryder Cup. Shame.
- A great investment. The people at Johnnie Walker must be pinching themselves at the value for money they get out of sponsoring the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. For a prize fund of just 1.8 million euros, they get wall-to-wall coverage on many media outlets because their tournament happens to be the last counting event in the European Ryder Cup race. It’s the same every two years. Not counting the majors and WGC events, there are 19 tournaments on the European Tour with more prize money than Johnnie Walker, yet these events don’t get a fraction of the coverage the whisky company gets. If I were a CEO putting up the money to sponsor one of those 19 events, I’d be having a word with Euro head George O’Grady. I’d be saying, I spend more money with you, so I want that date on the calendar.
- What did Corey say to Charley? I’m a big Rickie Fowler fan and can’t wait to see him play in the Ryder Cup, but how did Pavin explain it to Charley Hoffman? If Pavin was looking for a player in form, then he needed to look no further than the other guy in need of a haircut. Hoffman not only won the Deutsche Bank Championship, but he has three other top 10s in his last six starts. Rickie played well early on this year, but not lately. If I was Charley, I might be pretty miffed.
- Woods worry. Corey Pavin might have been smarter to have left Tiger Woods on the sidelines instead of making him one of his wild-card picks. The U.S. was a much more cohesive unit in Valhalla two years ago without Woods. I know the TV executives will be turning cartwheels that he’ll be part of the coverage, but Pavin is taking a risk. Tiger may say he’s a changed man, but I don’t see it. He still seems to carry himself with the same arrogance as he always did. How he manages that after all that’s gone on is beyond me. Arrogance and ego are the last thing you want on a team. He needs to leave both at the Celtic Manor gates if he is to make sure he is not the ‘I’ in team.
- Let the kids play for real. The Junior Ryder Cup is taking place at Gleneagles Sept. 27-28. Then the kids will play a friendship match at Celtic Manor ahead of the Ryder Cup. By all means take them to Gleneagles, but hold the real contest at Celtic Manor. I’d have limited the event to 12 singles, and let them play on Thursday in front of the crowds with all the paraphernalia of the real thing. That means names on scoreboards, scoreboard carriers, rules officials, etc. It means including them in the opening ceremony and having the Junior Ryder Cup presented to the winning captain. The crowds would lap it up. Oh, and I’d have all 24 Ryder Cup players act as caddies for the youngsters! Think what that stunt would do to help promote junior golf.