I don’t know if you’re a rugby fan or not but, assuming you are, where did you stand on the Lions tour of New Zealand ending with the series tied at 1-1, the final Test having finished in a 15-15 draw? In the immediate aftermath of that, the Lions’ Owen Farrell described the feeling as “weird”. Kieran Read, the All Blacks captain, said he felt “pretty hollow”. Put another way, both sides wanted to win and neither had. And it seemed that neither took an equivalent satisfaction from having managed not to lose.
Inconclusive outcomes are unusual in most sports. In Test cricket a draw is a commonplace result, if not as common as it used to be (a tie in cricket would pretty much represent the most exciting outcome you could have), while draws are normal in football, although not allowed to be a final outcome if it’s a Cup match. In most sports, however, a definite result is what happens. And golf?
Gary Player used to say he felt that if he was tied for the lead after 72 holes of a tournament, he was the winner. He didn’t count the outcome of the playoff, a view that may have been coloured by his 3-10 overtime record on the PGA Tour. But no one seriously suggests that tournaments should be halted after 72 holes however they have finished and the first prize and trophy shared, even this has happened a couple of times on the European Tour when darkness prevented the proceedings being played out to a conclusion. I’d suggest the only debate about the desirability or otherwise of playoffs is whether the USGA is right to bring everyone back for 18 more holes on Monday in the event of four rounds not identifying the winner of the US Open.
As for team events, there have been two ties in the history of the Ryder Cup. “Sister-kissers” is what our American friends call them. The tie at Royal Birkdale in 1969 was secured by the most famous concession in the history of the game, when Jack Nicklaus gave a three-foot putt to Tony Jacklin. Given that Great Britain (as ‘our’ team was then called) had lost every match bar one since the end of World War II, this felt like a victory. Twenty years later, when Europe retained the trophy after a 14-14 tie at The Belfry having led by 14-10, it felt like…well, like a sister-kisser, I guess. Not that I’d expect Owen Farrell or Kieran Read to use a term like that.
Finally, and separately, I see that the glorious old links of Cruden Bay seems to be in line to host the Scottish Open in 2019. The tournament sponsor is Aberdeen Asset Management, whose chief executive is Martin Gilbert, a friend of the President of the United States and apparently personally keen on taking the tournament to the Trump International course just outside Aberdeen. The European Tour reportedly has reservations about doing that. Gilbert said recently: “Politics aside, Trump would be an ideal venue, but you can’t put politics aside.” That’s probably true in this case. I haven’t seen Trump International myself although I’ve heard far more good than bad about the quality of the course. I have played Cruden Bay, and if the logistics work for it to host a major tour event, that would be wonderful.
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