Updated: Oct 9
The Ryder Cup, often dubbed offers a remarkable spectacle on the surface. I had the privilege of attending all four days, comprising a practice day and three days of fierce competition. Our strategic choice to lodge slightly outside of Rome, to escape the exorbitant hotel prices that are par for the course during such events, proved to be a prudent one, ensuring an affordable and pleasant stay.
As we dived headlong into the world of golf, a narrative of expectations and revelations unfurled. Europe, traditionally cast as the underdogs, had suffered a resounding defeat on American soil at Whistling Straits a couple of years ago. Back then, pundits had declared the U.S. team as the strongest ever. However, since then, significant changes had occurred, largely attributed to the introduction of a greater number of wildcard selections, which added a fresh layer of intrigue to the teams.
The American team, deprived of a few key players due to the LIV situation, found themselves in an unfamiliar position. Conversely, this upheaval seemed to invigorate the European team. The expansion of selections enabled Captain Donald to cherry-pick players in peak form during the latter part of the season. This shift from the previous 10-person automatic picks and a handful of Captain's selections seemed to bolster Europe's chances.
The contrast in preparation was palpable. Many American players took extended breaks at the end of their full seasons in August, while Europeans embraced the Italian Open and familiarised themselves with the course and venue. This proactive approach seemed to place them on equal footing with their American counterparts.
Some USA supporters trying to cheer their team
The golf, meticulously covered by various media outlets, showcased a sensational start for Europe, securing an impressive four-nil lead on Friday morning. The significance of this lead lay not only in the numbers but also in the sheer momentum it generated. Subsequent matches provided more even-handed competition, underscoring the vital role played by that early advantage.
As we transitioned to the decisive final day, Europe carried a five-point lead, setting the stage for an expected early victory. However, Saturday afternoon saw the Americans rallying, narrowing the margin to five points. Key matches, including the tussle between Schauffele and Rahm, exhibited the unpredictable nature of the Ryder Cup. Tommy Fleetwood's pivotal win on the 16th hole, witnessed by a diverse crowd, ultimately sealed Europe's triumph.
While the golf surpassed expectations, other facets of the event raised valid concerns. The exorbitant pricing, not limited to tickets but extending to various amenities, left a bitter aftertaste. The question arises: Will this be the new norm for major sporting events, or is there a breaking point where affordability becomes an issue?
Another pressing matter is the glaring lack of diversity in the crowd. The Ryder Cup remains predominantly attended by white fans, despite ongoing efforts to make golf more inclusive. The gender balance also leans heavily toward males, albeit the Ryder Cup being a male-exclusive event. The missed opportunity to promote both the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup as a combined golf festival warrants consideration.
On a darker note, outbursts of team behavior and occasional fan misconduct marred the event. While tensions are expected in a team event, incidents like confrontations in parking lots and on-course disagreements need addressing. To those who recall past controversies like the "War on the Shore" and Brookline, it begs the question of whether the Ryder Cup is edging toward a similar era of confrontation.
Additionally, crowd management, especially at the first tee, requires improvement to avoid potentially hazardous situations. Past incidents of inadequate crowd control at sporting events underscore the urgency of addressing this concern.
In an unforeseen twist, just days after the conclusion of the Ryder Cup, a fire erupted at the Marco Simone Golf Club, the very venue that hosted the tournament last weekend. The incident, which is detailed further in this Sky News report, highlights the unexpected challenges venues can face when hosting a global event. Luckily, it seems that no one has been injured in the fire and that the courses were not affected, but it's definitely a stark reminder of the enormous challenges that lie ahead.
In summary, the Ryder Cup in Rome delivered an exceptional experience, epitomising the passion inherent in team golf. Its legacy in Italy's golfing landscape remains uncertain, and the sport's post-COVID growth holds promise. However, managing certain facets of the event is crucial for its continued success.
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