After the “Battle at Brookline” at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1999 and the cancellation of the 2001 Ryder Cup (due to 9/11 terrorist attacks), the United States Ryder Cup teams have lost six of the last seven matches against the European team. For those of you golf fans who don’t recall what happened in 1999, it was the biggest American comeback of any team to win the Ryder Cup on the final day of play. What overshadowed the inspired comeback by U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw and his team was the reported heckling by American golf fans and the lack of sportsmanship by the United States team that entire week. Sam Torrance, who was vice-captain of the European Ryder Cup team is quoted as saying, “It was the most disgraceful and disgusting day in the history of professional golf … the spectators behaved like animals and the American players, most notably Tom Lehman acted like madmen.” Coincidentally, Lehman was named captain in 2006, whose team matched the worst margin of defeat ever since the indoctrination of modern-day European teams in 1979.
As an American golf fan and someone that believes strongly in karma, I contend that what happened that September week in Brookline has led to the worst stretch of competitions for the American side ever. The next seven Ryder Cups (except 2008 at Valhalla) is deserved retribution from the shameful way the entire European team was treated that weekend in Brookline and as a result the European side has taken this competition personal. How does the United States team ever recover from this poisonous act of etiquette? They haven’t yet but are sure trying everything to recover.
Most recently in 2014, the solution by PGA president Ted Bishop was to pick a captain that had won already as a captain in 1993: Tom Watson. The team again failed to win, blaming a huge part of the loss on their captain this time. Phil Mickelson even thwarted Watson, questioning his leadership during the week. The American team has not taken losing well over the past 15 years, which all came to a boiling point after the 2014 Ryder Cup. This episode again was not only embarrassing for an American golf fan but for its competitors.
The bottom line is that the players have to play better. The PGA of America was forced to create an 11-person Ryder Cup Task Force Team shortly after the matches at the Belfry in Scotland to discuss the selection process of captains and players. Currently, a six-person Ryder Cup Committee replaced the task force after selections of the captain and vice-captain. This collection of great champions is supposed to lead the players to victory?
Truth will be told Sept. 30–Oct. 2 in the heart of the upper Midwest. After growing up in what use to be known as the Old Northwest for 24 years of my life, I hope that playing this competition in a value-driven, non-self-absorbing region is exactly what the United States team needs to overcome the 1999 embarrassment. In any competition, there is a proper way to win and lose as a team; but in golf, winning and losing come with respect and humility.