The golf world offers a final farewell to Arnold Palmer, welcomes Tiger Woods back to competition and embraces what U.S. officials hope will be a new era to the Ryder Cup in this week’s edition.
Farewell to the King. There’s no easy way to say goodbye to a legend, to a hero, but thousands flocked to Latrobe, Pa., on Tuesday to try.
“He was an everyday man, everyone’s hero,” said Jack Nicklaus, who delivered an emotional speech at Arnold Palmer’s memorial service.
Perhaps the true measure of Palmer’s greatness was his reach across generations, along with Nicklaus current PGA Tour players Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson attended the service, as well as thousands of fans of all ages.
The most poignant moment of the service was delivered by Sam Saunders, Palmer’s grandson, when he told a story that defined the King’s ability to mix with presidents and patrons so seamlessly.
“Where are you?” Saunders remembered once starting a phone conversation with Palmer.
“I'm with the president,” Palmer said.
“The president of what?” Saunders asked.
“Of the United States,” Palmer answered.
“Why did you answer the phone?” Saunders said.
“Well,” Palmer said, “I wanted to talk to you.”
Tiger: The Return. Woods officially committed to the Safeway Open on Friday, setting the stage for one of the most compelling season-openers in recent memory.
Woods announced he “hoped” to play the event, along with the European Tour’s Turkish Airlines Open and his own Hero World Challenge in December, if his rehabilitation from multiple back procedures went as planned.
Although he didn’t play the Ryder Cup, Woods spent the week at Hazeltine driving a golf cart and embracing a new role as vice captain, and by all accounts things went well.
His return to competition next week in California may not be as effortless, but it will certainly draw even more interest.
Tweet of the Week:
Bringing The Cup to The KING! pic.twitter.com/v8HnlFokkU— Rickie Fowler (@RickieFowler) October 4, 2016
Fowler delivered the Ryder Cup to Palmer’s funeral service. The King would have liked that.
Task Force. Those inside the U.S. Ryder Cup circle would like to move beyond the scrutiny that came with the task force. “I wish you guys would start calling it the Ryder Cup committee,” Jim Furyk said on Sunday at Hazeltine.
Following the American victory last week those involved with the makeover can call it whatever they want. In fact, they can do pretty much whatever they want in the build up to the 2018 matches in France.
Phil Mickelson, one of the architects of the new-look U.S. team, said the biggest difference this time around was the Americans were given every opportunity to succeed.
Those involved with the task force, eh, committee, said all along that creating a winning tradition for the next 10 Ryder Cups was the goal, not winning the ’16 matches. But winning last week will certainly make things easier for Furyk & Co.
Euro Zone. There will be no task force, no second-guessing of Darren Clarke’s leadership, no overhaul of the Continent’s Ryder Cup process. It’s not their way.
It was evident on Sunday at Hazeltine that while the Europeans weren’t happy with the loss, it wasn’t the end of their world.
“Can we bring a ladder for Sully, first, please?” Sergio Garcia smiled as he filed into the interview room on Sunday.
“I'm a bit small,” Andy Sullivan shot back.
“Stand up, Sully,” Garcia laughed.
“Actually I shouldn't be saying that,” added 5-foot-10 Rory McIlroy.
The rest of the Q&A went largely the same way: jokes, smiles, lighthearted exchanges, and later on Sunday evening McIlroy joined the American team party by chanting, “USA, USA, USA.”
Even in defeat, the Europeans know how to celebrate.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Suspect scheduling. Your scribe penned this week’s edition without any power as Hurricane Matthew plowed its way up the East Coast, and watching the storm’s impact on Florida it’s abundantly clear that officials made the right call cancelling the Web.com Tour Championship.
The finale was scheduled to be played in Jacksonville Beach this weekend, but Mother Nature had other plans.
What’s not so clear is why officials scheduled the event this week. The Web.com Tour took last week off, presumably to avoid a conflict with the Ryder Cup, leaving no room in case of a delay with the start of the 2016-17 season looming next week at the Safeway Open.
Cancelling the finale was the right thing to do, originally scheduling it for this week was not. The four Web.com Tour Finals events are important, jobs, even careers, hang in the balance. In the future, let’s hope officials plan, and schedule, accordingly.
Mainstream mayhem. Some 50,000 fans cheered last Sunday’s spectacle at Hazeltine National, a testament to the Ryder Cup’s popularity beyond golf’s normal fan base.
The Masters may be the best event in golf, but the Ryder Cup has become one of the biggest spectacles in all of sports, and anyone crowded around the first tee on Sunday as the singles session got underway can attest to the event’s mainstream appeal.
But along with that popularity is a fan that’s never been to a golf tournament, probably never played golf. That fact, along with copious alcohol sales, added up to a rowdy crowd that stepped over the line of acceptable behavior on numerous occasions.
“This week, at times, it has went a little bit too far. But you know, that's to be expected. When you are teeing off at 7:35 [a.m.] and you're seeing people on the first tee with a beer in their hand and matches aren't finishing until 4:30, 5 [p.m.],” said McIlroy, who seemed to take the brunt of the crowd’s abuse. “I know I would be done at that point, I don't know what I would be saying.”
There’s not another event in golf with as much passion as the Ryder Cup, and sometimes that fervor blows through some traditional stop signs. Last week’s behavior by a small portion of the fans was not acceptable, but unfortunately it might be the price golf has to pay for joining the mainstream.