The Ryder Cup – for me, it’s the best television sports entertainment of them all. Why? Simply because for three days of high-octane match play in foursomes, fourball and finally, singles contests, this biennial competition produces hours of compelling viewing laced with an abundance of drama.
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Everything builds up to the Sunday finale, which never fails to disappoint even when, as happened at Hazeltine in 2016, Europe suffered a thankfully rare defeat.
I’m not alone in this view. Des Smyth, a former Ryder Cup player and twice a vice-captain on winning European teams, once told me that on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the Cup when he has not been directly involved, he clears his diary and settles down for the weekend to follow the action on TV.
Major championships have their own unique appeal, particularly The Masters. However, where else but in the Ryder Cup can you see the normally stoic Tour pros let loose with displays of raw passion such as that displayed by Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed in their epic singles battle two years ago?
A World Cup or Champions League final, or even the All-Ireland hurling and football final pales by comparison.
Golf fans worldwide are blessed with the level of coverage of the game available via Sky on this side of the Atlantic, albeit that, yes, you’ve got to pay your subscription and the Majors are no longer free to air.
But if you love the game there’s a price to be paid for what is overall, excellent coverage of the European and PGA Tours, with LPGA events and satellite Tours also available on the box. Yes, there’s arguably too much golf on the Sky offering, but better that than too little.
Thousands will, of course, have the privilege of attending Le Golf National for the Ryder Cup in Paris later this month. They contribute to, and they bask in the special partisan atmosphere generated by the matches.
I salute them. They pay plenty for their close-up access to the stars of Europe and USA and without the fervor whipped up by the galleries, the Cup would be a very different event.
Personally, I was blessed, as my job as a golf writer afforded me very special opportunities to operate inside the ropes at the 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, and 2016 stagings of the Cup – three in Europe, including The K Club in ’06, and two in the USA.
On competition days, you’d look out in wonder at the throngs outside the ropes, standing six and eight deep trying to find a vantage spot to see something of the ‘live’ action. It’s a difficult proposition, with only four matches on the course on the Friday and Saturday morning and afternoon.
Sunday’s 12 singles matches help to spread the galleries around the course, but good viewing access is not easy because of the huge number of fans. Many’s the time as we media folk tramped along inside the ropes, you’d hear mutterings along the lines of “hey, what are ‘they’doing here? Did ‘they’pay in? Why should ‘they’be in there?”
Head down, don’t look anybody in the eye, say nothing, and keep walking was the best course of action for us. You’d be thinking: “Yeah, you’re right. This is a great place to be. Forgive us our Press passes” but you wouldn’t dare verbalize that sentiment.
The advantage of being on the course, whether spectator, official, or media, is the experience of the fabulous Ryder Cup atmosphere, but you can find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time when something big happens elsewhere.
That’s why golf, particularly the Ryder Cup, is probably best viewed on television if you want to get the full picture, close up and in living HD colour.
Hold the calls, cancel all appointments, close the curtains, turn off the doorbell, and settle down on the sofa for the week-end of September 28-30. You won’t be disappointed.