Police the Ryder Cup No Way


Once again the alarms are sounding, the principals are caterwauling, the captains mounting soapboxes wringing their hands in consternation. The Ryder Cup is the subject. If we don't fix it NOW, the world as we know it will cease to exist.
Something must be done, of course, to prevent the abuse heaped upon Colin Montgomerie at the match at Brookline. That was garbage in its most rotten form. The stench has again raised the issue of better crowd control, less alcohol, etc. Something must be done to stifle such rowdiness.
But the rest of the complaining might as well be done to a crowd of deaf-mutes. There will be no less partisan displays, no fewer yelps or spontaneous outbursts, no matter what efforts are made to calm the crowd down. And though it certainly won't be done in the same manner, expect the unrestrained exuberance amongst the players to be every bit as lively as 1999 when the eruption among the Americans occurred on the 17th green following Justin Leonard's putt.
Why? Because that is the way both sides want it. Why? Because both teams in their lockerrooms work themselves into a frenzy to get ready for the matches. And regardless of how much both captains say it's a gentleman's game and you should cheer good shots on BOTH sides and at the end of the day sit down to enjoy a glass of ale together - it just ain't gonna happen, folks.
Sam Torrance, the European captain for the 2001 matches, made the tea-and-crumpets speech at the Belfrey last week. The Belfrey in England is the site of the 2001 Ryder Cup. Pardon me, but it sounded much the same as every speech has since that War on the Shore - Kiawah Island - took place in 1991.
That was when the participants first noticed the crowds getting into it as aggressively as they did. Of course, European powder keg Seve Ballesteros did much to whip up the locals with a couple of timely remarks, but it was nothing that he hadn't been saying since 1985. Paul Azinger retorted in kind for the U.S., and there you had it. A real, honest-to-goodness contest was in the offing. European captain Tony Jacklin started the war of words in the 1980s as he whipped up his boys into believing they were as good as the Yanks, and before long you had it, as dandy a little controversy as you'll find in any football game or Presidential election.
'There is one thing that is bigger than the Ryder Cup, and that is the game itself,' said Torrance. 'At times it seems like the most important thing is winning - but not at all costs. The integrity of the game in more important than that.'
Sorry, but the cows were out of the barn long before - about 15 years before. Naturally, that doesn't cover personal abuse such as was heaped upon Montgomerie. But wildly exuberant fan support will forever be a part of the matches now. The media, who have taken a lion's share of the abuse, will forever be a part of it. There will always be two or three or four players who will say something in the heat of the moment that probably wouldn't be said otherwise. And there will always be a captain or two who will allow something to slip - maybe on purpose.
The European Tour tells us there will be closed-circuit television cameras watching the crowd next year. There will be stewards and police to separate the rowdies from the gentility. There is a new policy on alcohol, that of drinking at the point of purchase instead of being allowed to roam the course with the offending swill.
The point is, this is the greatest spectacle that golf puts on. It is the one time every two years when patrons cheer as they do at a football game. It is a different kind of contest, one involving a home team and a visiting team. Crowds feel as if it's their duty to make the difference, as they do in every other sport except tennis. In 2001 it's Europe's turn. In 2003 the U.S. gets another chance. And once every two years, golf steps out of its blue-blooded mode and gets down where the people are.
The players don't particularly like it because it ups the pressure quotient by the multiples. The visitors will grouse if they get beat. The winners will chortle like schoolboys. It will be a supreme test of the nerves, as it has been for the past 15 years.
There is one way to return civility to the matches. Let Europe go on an extending losing spell as it did for about 50 years, until the early '80s. Then you'll see plenty of stiff upper lips, British accents saying, 'Jolly good match, old boy, jolly good match.'
Yes, the rancor will be gone. The enthusiasm will be gone. So will the suspense. And, of course, the fans will be gone, too.
It's impossible to police the Ryder Cup, at least the cheering - and I dare say, some of the jeering. That's why the pressure is so great at the matches, many times what it is when one is faced with a five-footer to win the U.S. Open. It isn't going away, Matilda. It isn't going away.