As I type this, the singles pairings have just been announced for the final day’s play in the 43rd Ryder Cup. Europe are facing an uphill battle, but when you read this, you’ll know whether Sunday was the “wonder at Whistling Straits” or the “whipping”?
So far there have been a number of talking points. The fact that the Europeans are playing in front of an almost all-American crowd was always going to be an issue, but I must admit that I was surprised by the booing on the first tee and I was disappointed to hear cheering any time a European ball found a bunker. When supporting school sports teams I was taught to applaud good play from both sides and to be silent during penalty kicks and conversions, including those taken by the opposition. Obviously the majority of the red, white and blue clad supporters weren’t.
Another thing we were taught was never to shout at or abuse the referee or umpire. Brooks Koepka managed to do both of those things during Saturday’s foursomes match. Having failed to earn free relief when in the vicinity of a drain on the 15th hole, Koepka took aim at two referees. “If I break my wrist, this is on ******* both of you guys,” he barked while gesticulating towards the officials. Journalist Ewan Murray, writing in The Guardian, described Koepka’s response to the ruling “as that of an entitled child.” If Koepka thought it was too risky to attempt the shot he should have done what you or I would have done in a club competition – taken a penalty drop. He seemed to believe his recent injury history somehow supported his case. Koepka’s partner, Daniel Berger, added insult to injury by audibly stating that he thought the referees’ decision was “bull****”. Murray was quick to point out in his article out that, “Whistling Straits spectators have been given routine warnings that “verbal abuse of players, captains, caddies or officials” will lead to their removal from the premises.” He also said, “The pity was that the referees did not punish American petulance with immediate loss of a hole.”
Bryson DeChambeau also drew attention to himself by appearing to complain about a European decision not to concede a putt early in his Ryder Cup fourballs match on Saturday. DeChambeau was left with a short putt to halve the opening hole after Viktor Hovland missed a chance to give himself and Tommy Fleetwood an early lead. He duly rolled the ball into the hole but did not seem happy that he had been made to do so and demonstrated this by laying his putter on ground after taking his shot. The fact that he was using an elongated putter wasn’t missed by commentators or spectators. HIghly respected American coach Butch Harmon was commentating for Sky Sports and branded him “Classless.” He said “Come on Bryson, that’s just not good. It’s not right, we don’t need it. Just play golf.”
This year the PGA of America, Ryder Cup Europe, and Aon are presenting a first-of-its-kind award to honour one player from both the U.S. and European teams who best embodies the spirit of the Ryder Cup. The Nicklaus-Jacklin Award will go to the players who see the bigger picture and who make better decisions critical to sportsmanship, teamwork and performance. The award is named after the famous 1969 ‘Concession’ by Jack Nicklaus, when he conceded a two-foot putt to Tony Jacklin for a halved match. As he picked up Jacklin’s marker and shook his hand, Jack Nicklaus said, “I don’t think you would have missed it, but I wasn’t going to give you the chance, either.” All too often sportsmen and sportswomen aim to win at all costs, but golf is a game relying on honesty and integrity and match play offers many opportunities to show sportsmanship.