Imagine going from being a small boy whacking a ball around some muni course to sitting at a table, facing the international media during a press conference at the Ryder Cup, one of the most view sporting events in the world.
Your heart pounding, your mouth dry and your mind racing, you take your seat. A few opening remarks are made by the coordinator and then, a barrage of questions blast at you.
You think back to simpler times when all you had to do was sink one more putt to beat Jack Nicklaus in a playoff. Suddenly, the headlights of an approaching car enter the dark parking lot as your mom or dad comes by to pick you up.
Life was fun at that point.
Fast forward 20 years and here you are – your soul is bared to the whole world because as a small boy, your ball found the bottom of the cup more often than anyone else. Sure you studied at university but golf was your main love and focus.
You could actually avoid most of the real world’s challenges because developing your golf skills took priority and you could get paid while doing it. A microphone slides across the table in front of you.
Okay big boy, you’re on. Let’s hear what earth-shattering comments you are going to make about the upcoming matches, who you’d like to be paired with, who you’d like to play against and the course.
Now let’s face it, the Ryder Cup is big business and not every competitive golfer came from meagre beginnings. Some are very articulate, well-educated, well-spoken and most are highly intelligent.
They also have a support team and ample funding, but the Ryder Cup is a huge stage.
I find it interesting that a very similar composition of players from the USA also plays on the Presidents Cup team and with far more success than that of the Americans in the Ryder Cup over the past few years.
Perhaps this is reason for concern.
The same players face a daunting task every year at roughly the same time. One year, it’s the Ryder Cup, the next it’s the Presidents Cup.
They do this for very little personal remuneration. Sure, their expenses are paid and they can take their wife. Sure, they can play for their country and sure, the residual gains are significant, but after playing on five or six teams, wouldn’t some of the bloom leave the rose?
The demands, the inconvenience, the pressure, the spotlight must all take a toll.
Captains are selected because they can play golf, not because they can manage. It is the captain who decides on the team uniforms, coordinates travel, accommodations, meals, team meetings, makes player selections, handles TV/media interviews, decides pairings, vice-captains, public appearances, course set-up etc.
Are you kidding me?
I hope the job comes with a big budget, some behind-the-scenes training and a really good manual, particularly when you think it is mostly done for your country.
Once everything is considered, how long can it be before American players tire of the two competitions? How long before they tire of losing at the Ryder Cup? Further, after the drubbing Tom Watson took from Phil Mickelson, why would anyone ever want to captain a team with Phil on it?
I hear talk of changes to the format which, in my opinion, would not solve anything. I hear talk of changing the qualification/selection process, which I agree might help providing it favoured players who were playing well at the time leading up to the event.
I hear talk of changing the selection process of the captain which makes me wonder if the captain has to be an accomplished player. Maybe, the whole USA team should be sequestered to some low-key training ground for the month prior and play the match formats every day in preparation.
Whatever the outcome, golf news is all over every magazine, newspaper, radio and TV shows. There is nothing like a little debacle within the normally peaceful courtyards of the PGA Tour where mud slides off it like oil off teflon.
Golfers, non-golfers, well- wishers and golf haters are all helping to promote the game by simply talking about it. Maybe this will become known as the ‘Phil effect’ and help bring new people into the sport.
We know the Tiger effect wasn’t as effective as we’d originally thought.