Ewen Murray gives his reaction to the Ryder Cup being postponed and takes a trip down memory lane to justify why it was the correct decision.
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The Ryder Cup would have been just 10 weeks away. Thousands of fans would be planning their journey ahead of descending on the Pete Dye-designed Whistling Straits course by the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin’s north.
Many more around the world would be counting the days to the showdown between the United States of America and Europe, television remotes at the ready. Clubhouses would be full of talk about who would make the teams, who would secure a wildcard and keen golfers would enjoy playing Ryder Cup captain for a few days in selecting their pairings.
All hopes, dreams and anticipation were dashed when the announcement came that in this trying year, there would be no Ryder Cup. I may be in the minority, but this was the correct decision and, in my opinion, the only sensible and responsible outcome.
If we go back to the 70s, the Ryder Cup was dying on its feet. The event then, between the USA and Great Britain and Ireland had ceased to become a contest. The result always a foregone conclusion, with the only intrigue was by how much the Americans would win.
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We had some wonderful golfers who performed heroically and made their mark in Ryder Cup history. Welshman Brian Huggett thought he’d secured the Cup in 1969 at Royal Birkdale with a tenacious putt on the ﬁnal green, but a few moments later, on the same green, came ‘the concession’ when Jack Nicklaus and the then Champion Golfer of the Year – Tony Jacklin – shared the spoils.
Peter Butler had the ﬁrst hole in one in the Ryder Cup at Muirﬁeld four years later and at Laurel Valley in 1975, Brian Barnes defeated Jack Nicklaus twice in one day. Peter Oosterhuis had an impressive record, as did the likes of Bernard Gallacher and others. We had a strong nucleus, what we didn’t have was strength in depth.
In 1979, GB&I were joined by the rest of Europe and despite defeats then and two years later at Walton Heath, to what today is still referred to as Uncle Sam’s strongest side, the Ryder Cup was beginning to show signs of life. John Jacobs had ushered the team through the ﬁrst two Cups and in 1983, Jacklin took the event by the scuﬀ of the neck. Victory at West Palm Beach still went the American way, but it was close.
Spain, Germany, Sweden and other European countries were producing great golfers. A united Europe were getting stronger. Jacklin gave his players the belief that they were on the same level, if not better than their counterparts, and how they responded.
Sam Torrance, arms held aloft in 1985, was the beginning of a new era for the event. It was followed by Europe’s ﬁrst win on American soil at Muirﬁeld Village. The USA hit back with wins at Kiawah Island and The Belfry and the next two went Europe’s way, before an astonishing comeback from Ben Crenshaw’s team at Brookline.
By now, heading into the next century, this sporting spectacular had captured the imagination of not just golfers, but sport lovers. Shy of the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup, the Ryder Cup was next in line for popularity.
Richard Hills of the European Tour, Kerry Haig and others from the respective PGA’s along with the two main bodies of tournament professional golf, put their stamp on it. From humble beginnings in 1927 in Worcester, Massachusetts, the Ryder Cup had arguably become, the greatest show in golf and it continued to grow.
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Who could forget Paul McGinley’s winning putt in the West Midlands before Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam led their sides to resounding victories? Paul Azinger came up with his pod plan to halt defeats, before another European victory in Wales.
Since then, we’ve had the ‘miracle at Medinah’, glorious Gleneagles and after another American win in Minnesota, the truly amazing scenes we witnessed in Paris two years ago. Great moments that will stay long in the memory, but we would not have had them without spectators and their fanatical support of both sides.
The atmosphere they have created allow the best players to perform at their best for the three days that seem to pass by in a heartbeat. All of the wonderful moments I’ve looked back on have been made even more special by the electricity the spectators have generated.
To have a diluted Ryder Cup is not an option, not after the journey we’ve enjoyed over the last 40 years. Steve Stricker will have the captaincy of his nation in his home state next year. Padraig Harrington will lead Europe after what we hope will be a proper qualifying process. We need to be patient and all things being equal, we will look forward to another ﬁne contest next September.
Imagine the ﬁrst tee announcements, followed by silence. A match all-square heading down the 18th and a stunning iron shot from someone to within two feet of the pin, greeted by nothing. No roars across the course from fans whose player has drained a long putt, or no groans when one slips by the edge.
The winning moment greeted only by a few hand claps. No opening or closing ceremony. What would be the point? I would have been saddened and disappointed to be saying and hearing others say in ten weeks’ time, ‘I wish we hadn’t played it’.
The nearest city to Sheboygan is over 60 miles away. These fans would enter Whistling Straits via park and ride. Long queues would have seen fans packed together in buses, both at the beginning and end of the day. In the current climate, an eﬀective incubator for COVID-19.
To play without fans would be bordering on criminal. To play it with them would be close to suicidal. The next playing of Samuel Ryder’s legacy will be outstanding. We can wait.