Mark Mason

Why is the Ryder Cup so cringe?

Why is the Ryder Cup so cringe?
Ian Poulter (Getty Images)
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And so to Whistling Straits, a venue with a name so ridiculous it could only be something to do with golf. The Ryder Cup is on us again, that biennial experiment to discover which overweight American is loudest at shouting ‘get in the hole!’

Golf shouldn’t be about artificial passion. Don’t get me wrong, the game itself is not without merit. For various work reasons I’ve spent a bit of time at professional tournaments, and the players are likeable, down-to earth people from ordinary backgrounds who just happen to be incredibly skilled at hitting a small ball into a small hole that’s far away. They’re as different as could be from the Bossy Accountant types who make amateur golf such a repugnant spectacle. If any of that brigade ever try to inveigle me into conversation I reply ‘I don’t play golf, I like women’.

A proper golf tournament – the Open, say, or a run-of-the-mill tour event – can be highly entertaining. Two interesting characters a couple of shots apart as they come down the back nine on Sunday afternoon. The agony of a self-implosion like Jean van de Velde’s at Carnoustie in 1999. The once-in-a-generation box office of someone like Seve Ballesteros. The ‘Miracle at Medina’ in the 2012 Ryder Cup. All of this is sporting drama at its finest – because in golf the drama speaks for itself.

What doesn’t help is to try to fabricate the drama out of nothing. This is what the ‘get in the hole’ brigade simply can’t see – tension has to be given time to mount, or it isn’t real tension. Thumping your dayglo-jumpered chest on the first tee simply because this is the Ryder Cup is so contrived it smacks of insanity. I’m looking at you Ian Poulter.

The Americans started it, of course. This is a nation that has to artificially ramp up the excitement of every sporting event. Too impatient for the actual game to begin, they’ll start analysing stats on which cheerleaders have the highest star-jump average. But nowadays the Europeans do it all too. Our crowds may be slightly less embarrassing, but now Europe’s golfers, and especially I’m afraid to say the Brits, seem to feel compelled to hoop and holler like American footballers coming out the tunnel at a Super Bowl. Stop making us all cringe.

Something just isn’t right when a bunch of normally affable and undemonstrative golfers from places such as Worksop and Hitchin are placed in the company of people with names like Bryson DeChambeau (honestly – even P.G. Wodehouse would have thought twice about that one) and so decide they must behave like Mick Jagger in the first 30 seconds of a Stones gig. It’s pitiful to behold.

There may well be some genuine drama over the next three days at Whistling Straits. But that will be because some golfers are playing some exciting golf. Not because they’ve made their faces go red by yelling at the world that this is the moment, man, this is what it’s all about, this means everything to me, this is the time, come on, let’s DO this.

It’s golf, gents: calm down.