2016 Ryder Cup Recap

Father/Son PresserI’ve long cited the Ryder Cup as my favorite event on the planet, and the 2016 edition served to amplify that belief a million times over. From the Reed-Rory showdown to the bizarre visual of seeing Tiger Woods ejected from the team photo to the inane off-site contribution of Danny Willett’s brother to the raucous celebration launched by a victorious US Team, the Hazeltine scene will be forever emblazoned in my mind as the best event I’ve covered in 30+ years.

Making the 2016 edition even more special was the blessing of having my son, Bo, along for the ride. Serving as Producer/Videographer, Bo got his first taste of the magical weekend that is the Ryder Cup – and he was blown away.

By now, you’ve likely read numerous accounts of the competition. It truly was an epic helping of too-good-to-be-true theater, and the global golf press has written extensively about it.

So instead of taking you through the blow-by-blow of the matches, Bo and I collaborated to compile our own scattered list of memorable moments. These are the things that will forever be etched in our minds:

Opening CeremoniesIt’s stunning to see the sheer scope of the Ryder Cup. Standing at the Opening Ceremonies put us right in the middle of a sea of humanity that provided a 360-degree ring of fans stretching as far as the eye can see. I’ve attended several games at the Big House in Ann Arbor and, for some reason, this crowd seemed vastly larger.

Meeting volunteers who lived over 2 hours from Hazeltine reminded me that there are still kind, energetic, dedicated people in this country.

The logistics of managing hundreds of buses that park at area schools and then transport 75,000+ fans to the course must be mind boggling.

All Dressed UpWhere do people purchase the costumes they wore? Uncle Sam, striped pants, Apollo Creed boxing gear – is there a Halloween store open year round? More importantly, what do these people do for a living? It’s fun to imagine seeing them run into the “stuffed shirt” boss out on the course and having to stutter out an excuse for being dressed like a bald eagle.

The European team can spare me the whining and complaints about crowd behavior. You’d think these lads were raised in a library while being provided a constant drip of laudatory praise through and IV. In case anyone has forgotten, these men come from a part of the world where soccer matches often result in riots. You would think that name-calling would hardly register on their “offense” radar.

The energy and electricity on the 1st tee at Ryder Cup more than lives up to the hype. So often in sports, the reports of something special are exaggerated. Here, it’s the opposite. Spontaneous outbursts of the Star Spangled Banner, scripted chants, hilarious banter battles between fans of each team, and then the moment a ball is put in play, all adds up to the single best scene in all of sports.

I have absolutely NO idea how a golfer could strike a shot in that setting. As we watched, Bo and I each decided that if we were pulled out of the crowd and inserted into the lineup, it would result in the loss of life for more than a few fans packed tightly around the tee area.

If you miss the thrill of entering WalMart on Black Friday, a journey through the Ryder Cup Merchandise Center will address that need. One major difference, though – nothing is discounted.

Arnie MemorialThe “Arnie Wall” was a wonderful idea by the PGA of America. We first saw it Wednesday when there was some space available to write a brief message in honor of Mr. Palmer. By the weekend, the 10×10 ft mural was totally covered in touching tributes. Well done!

I will never stop singing the praises of Premier Golf for the incredible job they did in packaging the Ryder Cup experience in such a quality way. Multiple hotels, 80+ tour buses, VIP parties, hospitality chalet along Hole 16, and a smile on the face of everyone on the team. If we’re grading on a 5-star scale, they get 10!

Patrick Reed is a beast. Had he been hooked up to a heart monitor, it likely would have broken.

I think a huge marketing opportunity was missed when no one stepped forward to produce a muzzle for Phil’s ever-running mouth. The “MickelMuzzle” would’ve been a huge seller in the US Team Room.

Why is it so crazy to consider changing the name to the Palmer Cup?

Bill Murray and BoI would estimate that Bill Murray has been asked to pose for pictures more than 500k times in his life, so it’s not a shocker that he’s grown weary of the request. Knowing that made it even more special when he said yes to Bo, only to then begin declining others.

There were special Media Access platforms located on half the Hazeltine holes. Media with the letter “Q” on their badges were allowed into these viewing areas. I had that letter, Bo did not. He did have a media badge – just not one with the letter “Q.” Still, the very kind volunteers on these platforms allowed him to enter with me and soak in some of the most exciting golf ever played. And then there was the lady guarding the platform behind #18. She took her job so seriously that she would not allow Bo access even though the Ryder Cup was over and there might have been 4 other people on the platform. It was a laughable case of authority run amok when she allowed him to stand near her but not take the final step onto the top of the platform. A little bit of power sure does strange things to some people.

The Assembled MassesI think the PGA of America may have sold too many tickets to the Ryder Cup. It was literally impossible to get around the course in many area. Sometimes, the value is increased when the quantity is decreased. With that said, the volume was incredible and it’s always good to have the largest number of people exposed to the game as possible.

It’s astounding to see a thin rope and minimal security presence somehow restrain thousands of people from crossing the literal line onto the “arena.” Only in golf would that work.

In total, Wednesday through Sunday, I believe I may have seen 8 people of color at Hazeltine. Half of them were associated with the US team. This was not an effort at diversity.

We should play more Match Play as amateur golfers. It’s faster and far more fun than posting a snowman.

How long until some bubble-wrapped little baby lectures us on how Patrick Reed is setting a poor example for young golfers?

While Danny Willett and brother PJ hold a backyard wrestling match fueled by the nightmare PJ inflicted on Danny, they should both be glad this Ryder Cup wasn’t being held at Bethpage. The Minnesota fans were vastly more kind than he would experience in New York.

To walk the course, soak in the excitement, be treated to incredible golf – and have my son by my side for all of it, is one of the greatest thrills of my life. We’ve had a blessed year with rounds at TPC Sawgrass, Oakland Hills, Arcadia Bluffs, and Crystal Downs, along with amazing experiences in Butler Cabin during the Masters and then the capper of Ryder Cup. This dad is truly blessed. 2016 will be a hard one to top!

Patrick Reed’s shot from the bunker on 16 was one of the coolest golf shots I’ve ever seen. Probably because it was done in front of such a huge crowd at such a critical moment.

Party TimeOne of my favorite moments of the year was standing under the crosswalk while the players celebrated and sprayed champagne everywhere, and let out all the stress and pressure from the event in the form of loudness, singing, and chanting.

Danny Willett’s response to “how was your first Ryder Cup?” resulted in a moment of great laughter that must have driven the Golf Channel censor crazy.

The U.S. team press conference at the end of the final day, especially how Bubba, Dustin, and Jimmy Walker came in first and just acted so human. Tired, relieved, excited, and very drunk (except for Walker).

I thought the long walk from the bus to the entrance was annoying at first, but as the week went on I came to enjoy it. It was a good chance to wake up and mentally prepare yourself for the greatness you were about to be immersed in.

Do you realize that Phil and Sergio shot a Best Ball 58 on Sunday? That’s insane!

For some reason, watching the players sit down on 16 after their matches ended, to watch their teammates play through, struck a chord with me. I think it reminded me of my high school golf days, where those who finished first would sit at the last hole and watch the rest of the team come in. It was cool to see even those at the highest level of the game do that.

Your Humble CorrespondentsI really enjoyed the media side of things – something that we didn’t have at Augusta. Being able to do interviews with people, having access to the media center, and being able to go into press conferences was really unbelievable.

I was really impressed with how, even though there were an incredible amount of people, we rarely had to wait in line to get in. I think the volunteers did an excellent job of getting people through the line. Better than the people who get paid to do it at the airport do, that’s for sure.

It was an awesome feeling being surrounded by people who love golf as much as you do. It’s not often that you get that feeling, since there are a lot more football, basketball, or baseball games during the year then there are major golf events. It’s tough to get that feeling a lot.

Premier Golf ChaletThe bus ride to the course each morning was great. We’ve said it before, but Premier was spectacular. That ride was comfortable, relaxing, and allowed you to get prepared for the day.

There is no prize money for the Ryder Cup, and yet the players there seem more excited than any other golf event. It’s tougher to get an understanding of that when watching on TV. In person, it is so clear how much this means to the players, and it’s cool to know that even to millionaires, money isn’t always everything.

Throughout the week, we did our best to capture many of the memories in video form. You’ll find the end result of that effort HERE. From that batch of videos, there is one that captures the sheer exuberance of the fans and US team soaking in the thrill of victory. You can hear it in Zach Johnson’s raspy voice and the boisterous cheers of the crowd assembled beneath the player’s crosswalk.

Finally, we continue a tradition that began at Augusta – a Father/Son podcast to talk about the experience of being able to take in this special event from up close. It’s not easy to put the week into words, but between the videos, the thoughts you’ve read, and the podcast, it’s our hope that in some small way you feel more connected to a time in golf history that will be talked about and shown for decades.

Congratulations, Team USA!

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