I don't love large tournament golf.
I don't. It is a degree of unreality that I've been outspoken about for years. Except for The Ryder Cup. If all the other events vanished, I'd be ok. But take away the greatness of The Ryder Cup and you'd hear me cry "Foul". Loudly. To me, there simply is no better competition in our world. Keep reading. I'll make you a convert.
1. Stroke Play Sucks. When I think back to the roots of golf, I just don't see two guys going out and having a wee nip at the end talking about how many strokes it took to win or lose. I think it was more simple than that. in my mind's eye, the score was settled hole by hole. Be it 5, 18 or 33 holes played, one did better than the other. A match. Match play rocks.
My favorite round of golf ever was at The Old Course at St. Andrews. Playing against my good friend and great Super, Jim Ferrin. Jim is a great golfer. I mostly suck. So we played a match. And the resulting afternoon in wind, sun, rain and joyful celebration of great shots and the agony of defeat of missed putts was awesome. And as we walked onto the 17th tee, thanks to me getting it together for the last three holes, we were even. Had it been stroke play, I would have drug my ass through a back nine of agony. Instead, I had a chance to beat him like a drum. To scrap hard. A poor drive on 18 ruined that chance. But still, what a moment. That's match play.
2. America vs. Europe. I love this so much. It's a match-up for the ages. It's always been this way The Colonials vs. The Homeland or some such. Yes, there are other continents, but there is something to the whole "where it began" versus "where it caught fire thing".
3. The Venues. Brookline, Medina, Celtic Manor, The K Club, Lindrick, The Belfry... and now Hazeltine. The site selections are a list of wonderful and unique. Not typical. Not types. Interesting venues with history and wonder. Look at this year, Hazeltine's 524-yard par 4. So cool. The Cup is always played somewhere cool. Somewhere unique.
4. Chris Tritabaugh. Yes, I know, he won't be at every event. But in 2016, it's the year of the Trit. And for me, this makes it even more exciting, because I have watched this guy for a long time and labeled him as special. I remember when I got the news that he got the job at Hazeltine National. I simply said to myself, my favorite event will have a favorite super. And of course, Chris has handled this thing really well. Really, really well. And he's done it with his own style, beard, quirks (he walks everywhere) and agronomy. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that his name is going to be mentioned with so many of the innovative greats of greenkeeping. Yup, Woods, Crockford and Tritabaugh will be mentioned in my list of great thinkers.
5. Energy. Sure, tournament goers and viewers are able to root for their faves. And they do. And that's cool. But nothing is as cool as the spirit of rooting for a match play team. Even the Olympic Games fell short here. They didn't create the atmosphere of what goes on with the Ryder Cup. Yes, this causes some folks to get a little out of hand. Going far beyond the occasional yelling of the "Babba Booey". And every year, the statement is issued for fans to respect the history of the game. Well, that sorta works. But really, it's an atmosphere of fun and a spirit of everyone having a good time in a game that doesn't always have that.
6. The Level of Emotion in the Players. I'm pretty well aware of the pressure that comes onto professional golfers. Certainly, there are hundreds of great players that were gutted by the pressure of playing their first mini-tour events and ran home to work at Golfsmith or to give lessons to the 9-hole ladies' club champion. So often, tour players just have to keep emotion bottled up. But the truth is, match play at the level of Ryder Cup can bring even the most robotic of players out of their shell. I'll bet we even see the Davis Love version 3 Robot blink away some tears. He will. Watch close.
7. The "Next Time" Factor. One team will win and one will lose. And both of them have next time to look forward to. You get it, right? Like there will be plans made, analysis done, opinions given and all that sort of thing that will allow a plan to be set forth to not lose again or to win again. That's cool. It sends people into greatness.
Now, as I write this, I am enduring the absurdity of Johnny Miller comments about bluegrass and perhaps the worst commercial I have ever seen with Davis Love, version 3. That's ok. I love it. I absolutely love it. And can I encourage you to love it too? Can I encourage you, next time you play golf, to play a match? Can I implore you to make that match a regular thing so you can plan the next time? Can I ask you to get a bit zany and have some fun with golf? Do it. You won't regret it. At all.