ryder cup
ryder cup
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Is the Ryder Cup getting out of hand ?

No one is really sure when it started. All that matters now is that it must be stopped.

Bad shots by the enemy (whichever team arrived on Concorde) are getting the kind of cheers that should be reserved for Sergio Garcia hitting out of a tree while blindfolded, or Jack Nicklaus making a back-nine charge to win The Masters at age 70.

Players are called names usually found on the walls of a truck stop bathroom.

Pressure in the Ryder Cup is said to be so thick that players have a hard time working up a spit. That wasn't the case for one person at The Country Club, who had no problem -- and apparently no conscience -- expectorating on the wife of European captain Mark James.

"What happened," James said before he departed Boston, "has left a bad taste in the mouth."

The 33rd Ryder Cup ended with a delirious celebration by the United States, which executed the greatest comeback in the 72-year history of the event by winning eight of 12 singles matches and getting a halve in the other.

And what a half-point that was!

Justin Leonard's 45-foot birdie putt on the 17th will become part of golf lore, just like Tom Watson's chip-in to win the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

What becomes of the Ryder Cup is anyone's guess.

No doubt, the matches will create the same kind of hysteria when they return to The Belfry in two years. Clearly, the stakes will be just as high, the pressure mounting on Europe to exact revenge in a game once based upon sportsmanship, integrity and honesty.

The PGA of America promised that when the Ryder Cup was over, it would come up with a plan to channel some of its $20-something million profits to the favourite charities of the players who have made this event the most compelling in golf.

That can wait. The first item on the agenda at the next board meeting should be something far more important.

It's time to save the Ryder Cup from turning into the Riot Cup.

The celebration on the 17th when Leonard made his historic putt was in poor taste. Jose Maria Olazabal had a putt half that distance to halve the hole and let the balance of the Ryder Cup ride on the 18th.

In hindsight, Leonard said he should have calmly walked over to his team-mates, "which would have been very hard to do." No team had ever rallied from more than two points down on the final day, and no team has ever been under this much pressure to win. Such an indiscretion will be forgiven over time.

"If that were over in Europe and Sergio made that putt, you don't think everyone would have gone crazy?" said Juli Inkster, who took as much interest in the Ryder Cup as her victory Sunday that put her in the Hall of Fame.

Hal Sutton pumped his fist. David Duval cupped his ear. Tiger Woods looked like the exuberant kid who won the 1997 Masters, not the exhausted man who won the 1999 PGA.

On Friday, the gallery waited a second or two after Europe missed a putt before cheering that America won the hole. By Sunday, the fans began cheering -- and name-calling -- before Europeans even hit their shots.

The bare emotions are a by-product of everything the Ryder Cup has become, which is nothing Samuel Ryder had in mind when conceived of this friendly competition.

The intensity is what makes the Ryder Cup so compelling. Take away the pressure, the pride and the passion and the product looks more like the Presidents Cup.

Somehow, the PGAs of America and Europe have got to find a balance.

James suggested banning alcohol at the Ryder Cup, but he quickly acknowledged the chance of that really happening.

"The Ryder Cup is a huge corporate event," he said, the same words that got Duval in trouble only a month ago. "You can't do a great deal of entertaining without giving people a drop of the hard stuff."

Written reminders don't work, either.

In the pairing sheets each day was a message from James and U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw that explained what the matches were all about and offered a guideline for gallery behaviour.

"In order to preserve this great tradition, there should be no excessive partisanship. While all good shotmaking should be applauded, the prospective misfortunes of an opposing player should never be celebrated. Nor should comments of any kind be made while a player prepares to make his shot."

It closed with this reminder.

"Enjoy the matches."

Yeah, right.


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