|Geeking Out For The Ryder Cup|
By Steven PeaseI actually have butterflies.
As I write this, the Ryder Cup is just weeks away. I've always been fanatical about the Ryder. In the week's leading up to the event, I'll be sure to block off the Saturday and Sunday of the matches to ensure I catch every second. The closer the matches get, the more I get a distaste for all things European. I jokingly tell my wife that I won't even call my sister (who lives in Paris), nor can we watch Rick Steves, nor are we allowed to drink German beer leading up to Octoberfest. That's just plain UnAmerican.
In my eyes, The Ryder trumps the Olympics. It's even better than the majors. Yeah, I said it. And while I've always been there in spirit, now I'll be there for the first time in person.
The Ryder Cup is on my golf "bucket list" - ahead of seeing Augusta, playing Pebble, or meeting Jack Nicklaus. It's going to be glorious. Even if we can see our breath, or (lord forbid) there's snow on the ground, I have a feeling the boys in Navy Blue will pull this one out - redeeming Captain Davis Love and bringing the Cup back to U.S. soil for the second time this century.
Here are 9 things you need to know before play gets under way on Friday, September 30.
1. Know Your Ryder Cup Stereotypes
Ever since I read John Feinstein's "A Good Walk Spoiled" as a teenager, I've loved the Ryder Cup. It's an event where 24 of the world's finest represent the rest of us. Most of them earn a spot on the team, while the others are hand-picked to compliment the Top 8. Captain Love's four picks, and Captain Clark's three picks will come from the Top 100 in the world. As both captains assemble their own dream teams, those selected are likely to possess a mixture of heart, the ability to hit the clutch shot and a number of other intangibles, including:
* Being "a gamer". See: Jim Furyk, Lee Westwood.
* Having panache. See: Billy Horschel, Miguel Ángel Jiménez.
* Being known as a "locker room" guy. See: Matt Kuchar, Andrew Sullivan.
* Being beloved on social media. See: Rickie Fowler, Beef Johnston (the European Boo Weekly).
* Being a "bomber". See: Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes (who Phil actually kissed after the 2008 win).
* Can someone remind Rory that his Sunday singles tee time is actually in Central Standard Time (that's a biggie). See: Luke Donald.
* Being clutch: See: Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer.
* Being a timely text-messenger. See: Webb Simpson.
With Clarke's selection of Westwood, Kaymer and newcomer Thomas Pieters (who played his college golf in the Midwest, and has beat Jordan Spieth head-to-head) Europe has their team set. Gotta assume Love will go with Rickie, Bubba, Holmes and Kuchar, but what do I know.
2. Find The Great American Cookout
I'll be setting up shop near Hazeltine to avoid the Saturday morning traffic. While Canterbury offers free parking and a complimentary shuttle, you can't stay there overnight. I'm planning on avoiding pre-match gridlock by pitching a tent in a buddy's backyard. There, we'll likely BS about anything and everything - momentarily reveling in the fact that the U.S. has a 2½ point lead after Day One.
3. Figure Out A Way Not To Go Broke On Drinks
A buddy of mine was at Medinah in 2012. He said it was an experience unlike any other. The emotions. The roars. The $36 drinks. Striking. As he tells it, "Drinks will be outrageous. I bought three double rum and cokes in 10 oz. glasses and it cost $108. Without tip." As a patron, you're restricted to carrying in a single, unopen bottle of water. Therefore, those who find a bit of "fire" at the bottom of a bottle of Jack Fire, will have to forego prime viewing positions in favor of a bit of liquid patriotism.
4. Wear Proper Attire
My buddies and I have been trading texts ahead of the Ryder, and aside from logistics, the main focus has been on apparel. Some are shelling out $90 for the actual Ralph Lauren polos that will be worn by the American players, while others (like myself) hit eBay to pick up the "vintage" 2008 Valhalla Ryder Cup polo. Why 2008? Well, it's the last time the Americans actually earned the Samuel Ryder Cup, of course.
5. Know Your Chants
We Americans love to get loud, but the fact remains that we're going to get out-chanted. This will be the biggest sports event to hit Minnesota since perhaps the World Series. Minnesotans can Skol all you want (and you should), but Euros grew up learning their football chants - and they have an arsenal of them at their disposal. Every time you hear an "Ole" the best remedy is a "U.S.A."
Per the Ryder Cup spectator guide, "Booing or heckling is inappropriate." Wait, really? "Spectators who breach this conduct by directing profanity or insult toward a player or official at any time, or who act in an inappropriate or unethical manner, will be immediately removed from the grounds. Your support of this tradition and adherence to the conduct outlined herein is appreciated." Keep it classy, Chaska.
6. Know What's Allowed
The Ryder Cup is a multi-national event with security of Olympic proportions, so needless to say there will be restrictions on what you can/can't bring. One stands out: You must keep your phone on "Golf Mode" during match days. No, that doesn't mean you must have your GolfLogix GPS running while texting golf emojis. Just use your head - no flash, no photos within 100 yards of live play, phone on silent, and you're golden.
7. Get That Sweet Vantage Point
Hazeltine sits atop the highest point in Carver County. But if you attended the 2009 PGA, or the impressive list of previous majors held on the grounds, you know Hazeltine it can be a bit tough to get a great view of players unless you're on the ropes. Well, take that neck-craning and expect to raise it by a factor of about 10. With an expected attendance of at least 35,000 a day to view just a few players take the course - which is expected to handle up to 250,000 during the week - you've got to expect the viewing experience will be akin to trying to watch a movie from a DreamLounger as a group of teens come in late from parking lot drinking.
GolfDigest Deputy Editor Ryan Harrington (@GWcampusinsider) wrote a tell-tale piece about "the dirty little secret" of the Ryder Cup during his 2014 visit to the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles. In short, the secret is that it's super hard to see play. His best view of players came from two spots - the driving range, and a viewing area with a big screen.
Ryder Cup Tournament Directory Jeffrey Hintz tweeted me back, sharing this little tidbit, "First tee is such a cool experience. Try to get a seat. 15 green, very top of 16 grandstand w/17 in view. Video boards in view." So there you have it. But unless you're on site super early, or were a star power forward in college who has sharp elbows and a commanding presence, thennnnn... good luck getting a solid view of Bubba on the first tee, or Jordan on the 17th. Though you might consider finding a nearby water tower to take in the action. Too bad the big blue Chaska water tower was dismantled in 2013.
8. The 9th Hole Is The New 18th
As if the format we're quizzical enough for those new to the matches (foursomes=alternate shot / fourball = four players, low score on the hole / singles =match play), Hazeltine's routing will be temporarily changed for the Ryder to allow for the international swelling of patrons on the storied grounds. The nines have been sliced and diced, with current holes 1-4, 14-18 comprising the Front Nine, and current holes 10-13, 5-9 making up the Back Nine.
9. Data Scientists + Pods = Victory?
Davis Love is melding tried and true philosophies from both sides of the pond in an attempt to create a winning formula.
After viewing a documentary on B.U.D.S. training in 2006, incoming U.S. Captain Paul Azinger was so inspired at the elite warriors' teambuilding and training tactics he implemented a "pods" system. These core groups of players would do everything with one another throughout the week - play, eat, sleep and win. Zinger also hired a leading business consultant to guide him in his pairing of these pods, and their day-to-day management. In the end - the combined strategy worked wonders. So much so Phil couldn't stop running his mouth about how much he missed it after the Americans were drubbed in 2014.
DLIII has decided to bring back the pods, with a bit of a Moneyball tweak. Each assistant captain (Furyk, Woods, Stricker and Minnesota's Tom Lehman) will be assigned to 3-4 guys all week. The Furyk group will be defined by their steely-eyed grittiness. The Tiger group will all have hackneyed nicknames ("Ryder Koepka") by Monday morning. The Stricker group will just be glad to be there. While the Lehman group will likely be the most motivated of all.
Following in the footsteps of Europe over the last four years, Captain Love and the PGA have also tapped analytics consulting firm Scout Research to crunch numbers and give advice to American leadership on everything from picks to pairings. In addition to his pocket-protector-full of number crunchers, Love is sure to bring in Tarheel alum Michael Jordan, a stable of other motivational speakers, gorgeous wives and girlfriends, and celebrity chefs. But to me, nothing is more exciting than seeing what a bunch of Excel geeks can mean to a Ryder Cup. Here's to hoping a pivot table can turn the tide in favor of the red, white and blue!
Odds At The End
While Tiger reportedly has a dining room full of equipment following Nike's announcement that it won't be manufacturing clubs anymore, you'd better believe he's considering taking his prized Scotty Cameron Newport 2 out of storage. He never won a major with a Nike putter. He won 14 with a Scotty. Please, Tiger - switch back now and let's make a run at another couple of majors.
Speaking of Le Tigre, a few weeks ago marked the 20 year anniversary of Tiger making his debut at the Greater Milwaukee Open. I was there - and I'll never forget the skinny, serious 21-year old who refused to give a kid a high five (totally not bitter!). But more so, I'll always remember chatting with his hippie caddie outside the clubhouse that sunny Saturday in August 1996. Fluff Cowen was manning his new loop's sticks when a fan sidled up to him. "Hey Fluffy, Fluffy, when is Tiger coming back out?" to which he replied, totally deadpan: "It's Fluff, and I have no idea." Never change, Fluffy.
"I'm going to leave y'all with one thought. I'm a big believer in fate. I have a good feeling about this." - Ben Crenshaw
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