Put people together with alcohol and hot temperatures and you’re always going to get some idiots. But we’ve created this Ryder Cup and now we have to live with it
“You stink!” That solo voice roared out of the air, probably stung its victim Scottie Scheffler, and definitely caught the ear of NCG’s Matt Chivers, who heard the abuse ring out across Marco Simone Golf and Country Club.
Then there were the boos on the 1st tee – a lot of them ironic it must be said – and the cheers and jeers of errant American drives.
Hundreds of spectators all over the golf course waved their hats at Patrick Cantlay and spewed terrace style chants at the USA player. “It’s all about the money, money, money” – a particular favourite echoing across the airwaves and into my front room.
It was all a bit unedifying, wasn’t it? And there was plenty of handwringing as a result. Have Ryder Cup crowds become too partisan?
What on earth are Europe going to face at Bethpage Black in two years’ time and shouldn’t we get a handle on this?
Golf really doesn’t know what to do with the Ryder Cup. It likes to portray itself as a sport of etiquette and honour – a pastime that’s set apart from the gutter antics seen in other competitive pursuits.
At the same time, some of what you hear from its biggest export to the world could come straight from any ground on a Premier League Saturday afternoon. Actually, I’m dumbing that down. What you hear in football grounds is far, far, worse.
In life there are always idiots. Put people together with alcohol and hot temperatures and a minority are going to crawl out from under their rocks.
Golf isn’t football, of course. But only the most naïve observer would not admit this is exactly the atmosphere the Ryder Cup is cultivating.
If you build grandstands like they’re skyscrapers, if some of your principal characters strut around that stage whipping up the crowd into a frenzy, and if you encourage the entire nature of the contest to be tribal (it’s US and it’s AGAINST THEM), then you shouldn’t be surprised that some people go over the edge.
I’ve been to three Ryder Cups. I stood on the first tee at Gleneagles and felt the passion flow through my veins and shake Webb Simpson to his very core.
I witnessed the Thunderclap in Paris on singles Sunday, a noise so raw it shook the ground around me. I never thought I’d hear anything like that again.
They surpassed it in Rome.
Isn’t tackling the Ryder Cup crowds part of the challenge of the event?
Before you all start @ing me, this is not to excuse people whose behaviour deteriorates. They can be dealt with as they are at any other sporting event – with a collar around the shoulder and a swift march to the exit.
But to expect nothing but gentle handclapping when everything about the event – its build up, its propaganda, its wall-to-wall coverage – demands something else borders on the ridiculous.
I don’t subscribe to the view that the tribal nature of Ryder Cups has made the competition boring, that it is impossible for the visiting team to conquer on foreign soil because of the baying spectators.
There are myriad reasons why Zach Johnson’s team failed in the Eternal City. They were spectacularly undercooked, some of their foursomes pairings were just bizarre, and external politics got in the way – to name just three.
Ultimately, as Padraig Harrington’s dozen found at Whistling Straits in 2021, they were outplayed by a team in better form. The crowds are passionate but they don’t hit the shots.
“I get that we get the banter when we go over to the States and play, and you know, the same happens here. It’s just the way it is. It the way the Ryder Cup goes. You have to have thick skin. That’s just the way it is.”
So said Rory McIlroy. Should it be like that? No. Is it a consequence of what this event has become? Absolutely.
Won’t that make the joy of victory, should it occur at Bethpage, even more considerable? To quiet them in their own backyard and come away with the spoils?
I’m curious to hear what the famous irascible New York crowds have got in store. I can’t wait to see what Europe can do to shut them up.
But if you’re going to celebrate the Ryder Cup as the ultimate expression of golf competition – which plenty of people do – then you also can’t complain if it gets a bit excited. You can’t have it both ways.
What do you think? Do we just have to accept that Ryder Cup crowds will be raucous, or is it time to rein them in? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.
- NOW READ: Who is the next Ryder Cup captain?
We dive deep into the golf ball roll back plans!