Money Talks at Ryder Cup

RSS

04 Ryder CupBLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- The caddies are driving Cadillacs. Tiger's in a tux and -- could it be? -- spike-haired Ian Poulter is, too. Corporate millionaires watch golfing millionaires from chalets that cost more to rent for six days than they normally would to buy.
 
Everywhere one looks at the Ryder Cup, there's money -- piles of it. From the black-tie, pink-gown gala that cost a half-million dollars to stage to Thursday's opening ceremonies with A-list celebrities, the Ryder Cup screams expensive.
 
Fancy, too, for guys whose fashion sense rarely extends beyond the color of their golf shirts, and ties are seen only on the scoreboard.
 
'That would be like going to four weddings in one week,' Stewart Cink said Thursday of the pre-Ryder Cup majesty. 'There's no other week that I have to wear a tie so much.'
 
The tickets are expensive, as much as $6,000 for a perk-filled three days of golf watching. The gifts are expensive; European captain Bernhard Langer bought an engraved Rolex watch for each of his 12 players. Even the souvenirs are expensive -- the always-crowded merchandise tent is as large as a Ringling Bros. circus tent, a three-ring souvenir show for spendthrifts.
 
All this money winds up somewhere and, for a change, a large share doesn't go into the players' pockets. The Ryder Cup is a gratis event, as the competitors play for love of game and love of country. (And, of course, the love of endorsement largesse that can follow a Cup victory.)
 
The PGA loves the Ryder Cup, too, and not just because the biennial Us vs. Them competition has become, as Davis Love III said, 'The Olympics of golf,' with all the accompanying flag-waving jingoism.
 
All this red, white and blue translates into green, with the PGA reaping an estimated $65 million to $70 million in revenues from sales of 38,000 daily tickets, sponsorships, luxury seating, TV rights and, yes, those ubiquitous $25 ballcaps. By comparison, the U.S. Open reaps about $50 million and the Masters about $45 million, though both must pay players' purses.
 
Mark O'Meara, the former Masters champion, and Tiger Woods spoke up loudly in 1999 about the PGA's windfall, wondering why more money didn't trickle down to those most responsible for the event's enormous growth, the golfers themselves. Woods called it 'pros on parade.'
 
Later that year, a duly chastised PGA agreed to give team members $200,000 each to split between golf development programs at their colleges and the charities of their choice.
 
There's still plenty of money left over, as evidenced by the finery worn by the golfers and their wives/girl friends/fiancees at Wednesday night's gala at the Fox Theater -- a red carpet affair televised live in Detroit.
 
A four-course dinner was served, and those wishing to eat the same meal in the same room and take in all the formal finery paid $575 for the privilege, greens fees not included. The 24 golfers were shrouded by curtains dropped only after a big buildup and a highlight video.
 
All very fitting for an event where the caddies' courtesy cars are better than the Buicks usually given the pros at most PGA Tour stops.
 
'It's probably the first time well, since the last Ryder Cup that I got to dress up three days in a row,' David Toms said. 'It's like going to church for three straight days, but it's fun. The wives have a good time putting on their gowns and dresses and they look good.'
 
There was plenty of pomp and circumstance during the opening ceremonies, a flag-raising event in which each captain introduces his players. The ceremony once was short and informal but, on Thursday, was jazzed up with loud music, a platform-covering burst of colorful streamers and appearances by an eclectic group of celebrities including Donald Trump and Larry Brown, Steve Yzerman and Samuel E. Jackson, Michael Phelps and Kathy Ireland.
 
There were nearly as many celebs Thursday as there were spectators not all that long ago, back in the day when the Ryder Cup was a low-key, low-pressure event, with good manners and sportsmanship meaning almost as much as the good golf.
 
Funny how money has a way of changing everything, even if some don't yearn for the old days.
 
'It's fantastic to see where this event has gone especially in the last 20 years,' Langer said. 'It's unbelievable. ... These matches are watched all over the world, it doesn't matter where you go on the globe. It's just a wonderful match to watch.'
 
If you've got the money.
 
Related Links:
  • Photo Gallery

  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team

  • European Ryder Cup Team

  • Full Coverage - 35th Ryder Cup

  •  
    Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.