Does the Ryder Cup still matter? | Golf News and Tour Information
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on Fire Pit Collective, a content partner of Golf Digest.
To say they wasted no time would be an understatement: Ryder Cup Europe leaders have even removed Henrik Stenson as captain for next year’s event. before he was announced as LIV Golf’s newest recruit. As things stand, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey or Sergio Garcia or Ian Poulter, all European Ryder Cup stalwarts and LIV signatories, are unlikely to wear a Ryder Cup uniform again. Ditto for Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau on the American side.
To borrow a favorite Twitter word from the host of next week’s LIV event at Trump Bedminster: SAD!
Donald Trump used to imagine how he could have the Ryder Cup at Trump courses on both sides of the pond. Well, the odds of that happening are slim to nil as long as Trump remains associated with LIV Golf.
The sudden influx of $1 billion (or $2 billion or $3 billion) from the House of Saud is proving to be the most disruptive force professional golf has ever felt. We saw the gasps from PGA Tour and DP World officials. But what is clear now is that this Saudi money will have a devastating impact on Ryder Cup golf. If one of the goals of this investment in golf by the Saudi National Investment Fund, overseen by its Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, is to appear more western, that part is already backfiring.
The Ryder Cup matters because players, captains and alternate captains on both sides care about Sunday night’s scoreboard totals. When LIV Golf Series CEO Greg Norman first attended the Ryder Cup last year when it was held in Kohler, Wisconsin, he said he could see for the first time the huge appeal of team golf, and it doubled down on its commitment to having a team component in LIV tournaments. As an Aussie, he was active for years in the Presidents Cup, but that event, more often than not, has been an American-dominated siesta party.
The greatness of the Ryder Cup lies in the many years the event has been a biting event and the way the pendulum has swung between Europe and the United States. But the root of greatness has been how the passion for the Ryder Cup has been passed down. In this regard, there is a straight line from Seve Ballesteros to Jose Maria Olazabal to Sergio Garcia to Jon Rahm. The American equivalent of that would be Ben Crenshaw to Payne Stewart to Phil Mickelson to Dustin Johnson. It’s all in danger now.
You could say the Ryder Cup, one of the greatest sporting spectacles of the past 40 years, is in jeopardy. Over the years, the event has been viewed, accurately or not, as a civil war between the rambling players of the European Tour and the stars of the PGA Tour. All Europeans took their first steps in the game abroad. The path to Team USA was the American country club, followed by a short stint at an American university, followed by success on the American Tour, the gold standard of professional golf.
The Ryder Cup was king of the jungle, which is why so many people who aren’t avid golfers watch it. As a sporting event in North America, the Ryder Cup had a safe perch, south of the Super Bowl, of course, but north of the Stanley Cup Finals.
You can’t replace Mickelson and Garcia and the others and the institutional knowledge and passion that they represent. Now that we know they were willing to give up their status in Ryder Cup lore for a mere pay day, we ordinary fans will wonder why we cared so much in the first place. It’s as if they spit out our passion and put theirs on the sidewalk.
As the US and European Tours draw closer in their shared fight against Series LIV, the natural enmity between the two tours will begin to dissipate and the fighting spirit of the Ryder Cup will take a hit along the way.
Europe’s Ryder Cup leaders will replace Stenson with someone, but whoever it is, that person will know he wasn’t the first choice, and the players on the team will know it too. The 2023 Ryder Cup matches will be played in Italy. The 2025 matches will be played at Bethpage Black. It was widely suspected that Mickelson would be an assistant captain under Zach Johnson next year and captain at Bethpage in 25. It’s not going to happen.
Just 10 months ago, Mickelson, at Whistling Straits, oddly had a starring role on Team USA, simply by being a talkative, opinionated and charismatic assistant captain to Steve Stricker. He walked inside the ropes with his wife, Amy, as chants rained down on him. He was the defending winner of the PGA Championship and an icon of the PGA of America, which leads the US Ryder Cup team. One day he would be captain of a team that Will Zalatoris would play on, and Will Zalatoris would mentor a kid whose name we don’t even know.
Then came all that oil money, and all that disruption.