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Post Ryder Cup 2021: An Essay on Insignificance
Created by John Eipper on 09/29/21 3:24 AM

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Ryder Cup 2021: An Essay on Insignificance (David Duggan, USA, 09/29/21 3:24 am)

While WAISers are contemplating the global-warming effect of the R Kelly verdict (think of all the heat that won't be produced in his seraglio--for the next 45 years), one equally insignificant fact that occurred over the weekend was the US winning the Ryder Cup for only the third time in this millennium (out of 10 contests). A made-for-TV biennial golf-extravaganza, the Ryder Cup pits the best players from the US against the best from Europe (including the adjacent isles). And for the first time in this millennium, neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson played. As much as anything that says why the US won.

Using an inscrutable scoring method with games called "four ball" and "foursomes" and "singles," this year's event was held at a converted cow pasture overlooking Lake Michigan outside of Kohler, Wisconsin (home of great plumbing), near Sheboygan (home of great bratwursts--hey it's Wisconsin, and I'll bet you they had a fish fry on Friday night).

Whistling Straits is the sister course of another Kohler family "destination course," charging hundreds of dollars for middle-class suckers to play: Black Wolf Run (where do they get these names?). True to its bluff's edge locale, Whistling Straits is probably more suited for herons and Brown Swiss cows than the Holsteins that otherwise dot America's Dairyland farmscape.

On Friday and Saturday the two teams played a form of "pairs golf," sort of like what you'd play in a father-son friendly. In "four ball," each player plays out the hole, and the lower score for the team wins the hole. So, if Brooks and Bryson score a 3 and a 4 while Sergio and Rory score a 4 and a 4, the Americans win. In "foursomes" the two players from a team alternate shots with the same ball, and the low score wins the hole. In both of these contests, each hole is a separate event. If you win the first 10 holes you win the match: with 8 holes to play there's no way that your opponent can beat you. That's how you get reported scores of 4 and 3, which means that the winning team was up by 4 holes with three to play, so in this instance the winning team won 9 holes, the losing team won 5, and 1 hole was "halved" or tied. After 16 of these contests, the Yanks held an 11-5 lead, almost commanding but as they say in Green Bay, some 60 miles north, on any given Sunday...

Nine years ago at nearby Medinah, the US had a 10-6 lead going into the Sunday singles contests, in which 12 golfers from each team go head-to-head in this "match play" format. Since the Europeans held the cup from their 2010 win at Celtic Manor Resort in Newport Wales, they needed to win 8 matches to keep it (tie goes to the holder); the US needed to win only 4 and halve another to win. Then led by Tiger and Phil, the US blew it completely. Phil lost to Justin Rose 1-up, which meant that Phil had to win the last hole to "halve" his match. He didn't. Tiger, supposedly the best golfer in the world that year, "halved" his match with Francesco Molinari. Had Tiger won and Phil halved, the score would have been 14-1/2 for the US and 13-1/2 for the Europeans. Instead it was the other way around. This became known as the "Meltdown at Medinah."

Thanks to a "balanced team" featuring no "superstars," the Yanks won the singles matches 8-4. Golf "experts" (there is no such thing) were saying this was the best team the US had ever fielded. Nobody on the course needed more than one hand to count the number of "majors" he had won (first time that was the case since 2014 after Phil had won his 6th; Tiger was absent that year because of his persistent back injuries). Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy topped out the field of majors winners at 3, with more players at zip than at one or more. The story of the weekend, however, was the bro-feud between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau largely over Koepka's slow play (featured in a Wall St. Journal sports-page analysis). When your top story is a made for the tabloids feud between golfers, your sport is in trouble. After the win on Sunday, the two made the perfunctory bro-hug for the cameras. The beer (I hope it wasn't PBR, hopefully Leinenkugels) was sprayed around--hey, it's Wisconsin. But I'm sticking with Moet.

JE comments:  I always confuse my Ryder Cup with my Davis Cup.  The latter is for tennis, and they both are organized as team competitions along national lines.  David, do you sincerely believe that golf is in trouble?  Is it because in the AT Era (After Tiger), there are presently no household-name celebrity stars?  At least, I can't name any.

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  • The Decline of Golf...And a Primer on Animals (David Duggan, USA 10/01/21 2:14 AM)
    To address John E's question, golf's been in trouble for a number of years, judged by the number of rounds played annually. As Jack Nicklaus said, the game takes too long, costs too much and is too darn difficult.

    One indicator is the entry ticket for prestige members'-only courses: around here there used to be a waiting list and with $75,000 down you might become a member--if you had a few sponsors (some clubs gave you some equity, others didn't). Now with $25,000 they're happy to take your application, and where would you like to sit for dinner?

    And the Hérens I wrote was not a misspelling of a long-legged water bird: they're a Swiss breed of mostly black dairy cattle that the Valaisans use in head-to-head (literally) competitions. Here's the link:

    Hérens cattle:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%A9rens_cattle

    These were the cattle we saw on the Haute Route 8 years ago (can it be) and which I spoke about at WAIS-2013. The aggressive cows are put into a ring and the winner is called La Reine. Another Valaisan pastime is Schwingen, a sort of no-holds-barred wrestling in a sawdust pit.

    JE comments:  David, I really goofed on that edit.  Note to self:  cows are cows, birds are birds.  I was thrown off by your lakeside reference:  at WAIS HQ, our resident blue heron, Reginald, fishes every morning from the dock.

    The Hérens are unique in that the cows, not the bulls, do the fighting.  Fortunately for this animal lover, their horns are blunted and (reportedly) no one gets hurt.  For his part, Reginald's aggression goes no further than an infernal squawk, although the fish find him perfectly horrifying.

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