Only a few days to go now until Friday and the golf will actually get underway in the Ryder Cup match at Hazeltine. Thank goodness for that. Previews can end and the sport can begin, albeit the pomp around the circumstance had already been diluted before the 24 players and scores of sundry others began to home in on Minnesota. As recently reported in the Charlie Sale column in the Daily Mail, the PGA of America has scrapped the gala concert that was scheduled to be the main event on the Wednesday before the action kicks off. The players hate all that crap, no time more so than in Chicago four years ago when the band of that name played a set that went on for longer than a quick singles match. And we all know what happened to Davis Love’s boys at the denouement of that Ryder Cup. Perhaps the man who is the 2016 captain as well didn’t want to risk a repeat; the Mistake on the Lake being reprised by the Pain on the Plains.
Of course, a mistake is how Love’s captaincy will likely be perceived if the United States lose. He announced his final wild card on the Sunday evening after the conclusion to the Tour Championship, donating it to Ryan Moore, who had lost out in a playoff to a resurgent Rory McIlroy. That was the purpose of the late pick; to choose someone who was hot right now. But as Lee Westwood had pointed out previously, it was a bold (foolhardy?) call a fortnight before to omit Bubba Watson, ranked seventh in the world, and instead opt for a latterly lacklustre Rickie Fowler. As I say, if the US go down, Love’s decisions will probably be blamed above all.
(Westwood also mischievously went so far as to suggest that having Tiger Woods among the backroom staff might hurt rather than help the American team and, hey, Tiger has to have bad memories of Hazeltine – it’s where he lost the only major championship he led after 54 holes, the 2009 USPGA Championship to Y.E. Yang, three months before he hit the hydrant and set his marriage on fire.)
And then there are the political ramifications. Ideally one should keep politics out of sport (or is it the other way around?) but this will be the first European team to play under the blue-and-yellow flag post Brexit. The European Tour has said it will look at this issue in the future, but why bother? The whole thing is a nonsense anyway. As it stands a non-EU European golfer could play in the Ryder Cup – Theoretical Exhibit A: some Swiss professional. On the other hand, a golfer from an EU country cannot participate if he’s not paid his dues to the European Tour – Actual Exhibit B: Paul Casey.
And then there’s the Donald. Will Trump show up at Hazeltine? He knows it’s likely that all 12 members of the US team will be voting for him on November 8 – Jack Nicklaus has spoken well of him and a Sports Illustrated survey, conducted anonymously, found that 56% of PGA Tour members wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton even if she vowed to halve high-eaners’ taxes. And Trump is big on golf; almost as big as he is on America. In fact, I’m a little surprised that, along with making Mexico pay for building that infamous wall of his, he hasn’t included among his election pledges a guarantee that under his presidency the United States would always win the Ryder Cup. At least he hasn’t yet.
Robert Green’s ‘Seve: Golf’s Flawed Genius’ is available on Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter @robrtgreen