The first tee scene of the opening match of Saturday's Ryder Cup foursomes, some have argued, was nothing more than the further ruination of the sport.
To be sure, there are some aspects of watching or attending a golf match that are ever increasingly more tedious. Listening to those who yell "YOUDAMAN" or "GETINTHEHOLE" on every shot is not my ideal way of spending a Saturday afternoon. And those acts of bluster are getting quite stale. Maybe the tournament organizers should set up a special section on the golf course with its own beer tent for those types. Let others of a more respectable demeanor have the comfort of not having to deal with the obnoxiousness. Of course, that will not soon happen. Hey, we are living in the era of hope and change, right? So, I can hope.
But Saturday was different. Introduced to tee off first in the alternate shot format, Ian Poulter, never one to avoid the limelight, urged the fans to make some noise. And then prompted them again. And again, once more, until he got the volume where he wanted it. LOUD, then LOUDER!!
Was I watching the the Ryder Cup or a Metallica concert?
Of course, this was all a calculated move on the Englishman's part to steal some thunder from Bubba Watson who would be playing first shot for TEAM USA. On Friday, Bubba had done the very same thing in the afternoon session and there was no doubt he would get the pro USA crowd jacked up again. But it was only 7:20 in the morning. Could the crowd have possibly had enough beer by then?
Really,though, Poulter's play was nothing more than a little harmless gamesmanship. Was it the further decline of the game of golf? You be the judge. Take two plus minutes and watch. And then watch it again and imagine you were there.
Welcome back. What did you think? Pretty horrible stuff, huh? The nerve of that Poulter, on American soil no less, to be so rude. How dare he? And, after all, he was just a captain's pick. Maybe he could show a little humility?
Uh, no. No such thing as humility in Ian Poulter's world. And admit it, we wouldn't want him to be any different than he is. The GREATEST RYDER CUP PLAYER NEVER TO WIN A MAJOR is not about to back down and cower in fear.
Rory McIlroy may be the best player in the game today but is there is any player on TEAM EUROPE more important than Poulter? He is the heart, the soul, the blood and the guts of that team. Love him or hate him, there can be no doubt that there is today, on the final day of Ryder Cup play, no player that Team Europe turns to more for inspiration and no player Team USA fears the most. Webb Simpson, I hope you are playing with earplugs today to block out Poulter's screams when he drops another key putt.
What happened on Saturday is just part of the evolution of the game.
It's no longer a game played by rich, old, white men in bad pants. It's global and it has a different face. And it makes noise when noise was never really part of the game our grandfathers played. And, maybe best of all, it has some emotion, some glitz and glare, some fun. The young guns coming up are changing the game and making it more fun for golf fans. Think Golf Boys.
Can you imagine Nicklaus, Snead, Player and Palmer doing such a thing if they were coming up today? Hell, no.
The game is changing and it's good.
Augusta National admits women members? Oh, the horror!!!
Move the tees up so everybody plays faster? Great idea. Wish someone thought of it a long time ago.
Generate more fan enthusiasm and make them feel like participants the way other sports do? It's about time.
Fans spend a lot of money on tickets and refreshments and all they ask for is a little love in return. Maybe an autograph or a high five now and then. Toss a ball the crowd once in a while. Smile at us and let us know you appreciate our support of the game as much as we appreciate your talent. Make us feel good about our decision to spend our ever diminishing incomes on watching grown men play a game.
Golf fans go to golf tournaments for the thrill of seeing a competition and rooting for their favorite players. And what we remember is not the entire round of golf, not every shot from the the tee or from the fairway, not every putt that dropped. No, what we remember is a moment. The thrill of the moment when we see a 50 foot putt dropped when we are greenside. Or the thrill of seeing a hole out from the fairway for an unlikely eagle. Or the thrill of seeing a drive that was bombed by the man on the tee box that seemed to kiss the sun on its way to the fairway. These are the moments we share with friends or with our children. You might see several hundred shots played yet only remember about ten of them. Just a moment in time. Just a few thrills to help us forget the bad day at work or the lousy boss we have.
And what Poulter and Bubba gave the fans Saturday was just one of those moments. Think those fans, when they recall all the golf they ever watched, won't put that in their personal top tens? You think those fans won't want to go back to another Ryder Cup and maybe bring a friend or two?
Poulter and Bubba spread some love and shared some joy on the first tee box yesterday. And the fans loved it, television loved it and even fellow players loved it. And if that makes golf more popular then it's all good.