Ryder Cup

Does the Ryder Cup Matter Anymore?

With so many stars eager to choose money over country, the rest of us are left to wonder why we ever cared so much

By Michael Bamberger
July 21, 2022

To say they wasted no time would be an understatement: Ryder Cup Europe executives removed Henrik Stenson as their captain for next year’s event even before he was announced as a new LIV Golf recruit. As things stand, it is unlikely that Lee Westwood, Paul Casey or Sergio Garcia or Ian Poulter, all European Ryder Cup stalwarts and LIV signees, will wear a Ryder Cup uniform again. Ditto for Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau on the U.S. side.

To borrow a favorite Twitter word of the host of next week’s LIV event at Trump Bedminster: SAD!

Donald Trump used to imagine how he could have the Ryder Cup at Trump courses on both sides of the pond. Well, the chances of that happening are somewhere between slim and none as long as Trump remains associated with LIV Golf.

The sudden influx of $1 billion (or $2 billion or $3 billion) from the House of Saud is proving to be the single-most disruptive force professional golf has ever felt. We’ve seen the hand-wringing from PGA Tour and DP World officials. But what’s obvious now is that this Saudi money will have a devastating impact on Ryder Cup golf. If one of the goals of this golf investment by Saudi Arabia’s national investment fund, overseen by its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, is to appear more Western, that part is already backfiring.

The Ryder Cup matters because the players and captains and assistant captains on both sides care about the Sunday night scoreboard totals. When Greg Norman, the CEO of the LIV Golf series, attended the Ryder Cup for the first time last year, when it was played in Kohler, Wisc., he said he could see for the first time the enormous appeal of team golf, and he doubled down on his commitment to having a team component in the LIV tournaments. As an Australian, he was active for years in the Presidents Cup, but that event, more often than not, has been a snooze-fest dominated by the Americans.

The greatness of the Ryder Cup has been the many years the event has been a nail-biter, and how the pendulum has swung between Europe and the U.S. But the root of the greatness has been how Ryder Cup passion has been handed down. In this regard, there’s a straight line from Seve Ballesteros to Jose Maria Olazabal to Sergio Garcia to Jon Rahm. The U.S. equivalent to that would be Ben Crenshaw to Payne Stewart to Phil Mickelson to Dustin Johnson. That’s all in jeopardy now.

You could say the Ryder Cup, one of the great spectacles in all of sport over the past 40 years, is in jeopardy. Over all those years, the event has been viewed, accurately or not, as a civil war between scrappy European Tour players and coddled PGA Tour stars. All the Europeans made their first marks in the game abroad. The path to the U.S. team was the American country club, followed by a short stint at an American university, followed by success on the American tour, the gold standard for professional golf.

The Ryder Cup was king-of-the-jungle stuff, which is why so many people who aren’t avid golfers watch it. As a sporting event in North America, the Ryder Cup had a secure perch, south of the Super Bowl, of course, but north of the Stanley Cup finals.

You can’t replace Mickelson and Garcia and the others and the institutional knowledge and passion they represent. Now that we know they were willing to forfeit their standing in Ryder Cup lore for a mere payday, it will make us, ordinary fans, wonder why we ever cared so much in the first place. It’s like they’ve spat out our passion, and put their own on the curb.

As the U.S. and European tours become closer in their joint fight against the LIV series, the natural enmity between the two tours will start to wash away and the Ryder Cup’s fighting spirit will take a hit along the way.

It is actually sad.

The European Ryder Cup executives will replace Stenson with somebody, but whomever it is, that person will know he wasn’t the first choice, and the players on the team will know that too. The 2023 Ryder Cup matches will be played in Italy. The 2025 matches will be played at Bethpage Black. It was widely suspected that Mickelson would be an assistant captain under Zach Johnson next year and would be the captain at Bethpage in ’25. That’s not going to happen.

It was only 10 months ago that Mickelson, at Whistling Straits, had in a weird way a starring role on the U.S. team, simply by being a talkative, opinionated and charismatic assistant captain to Steve Stricker. He walked along inside the ropes with his wife, Amy, as chants rained on him. He was the reigning PGA Championship winner and an icon of the PGA of America, which runs the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Someday he’d captain a team that Will Zalatoris would star on, and Will Zalatoris would mentor some kid whose name we don’t even know.

Then came all that oil money, and all this disruption.

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at [email protected]

15 thoughts on “Does the Ryder Cup Matter Anymore?”

  1. Terry Hutchens

    Collectively we have sold out to money and materiality. All generations have ultimately succumbed to this.

    Greed has destroyed more lives then all the historical physical wars have added together

    Ironically most wars themselves start with greed as the key factor.

    Greed – the number one sin in my opinion.

    We are all Mr Potter’s at our core – even though we deceive ourselves by thinking we are George Bailey’s.

    Too bad there aren’t more guardian angels on our shoulders .

    I told my two sons that LIV was about way more than just golf. It will speak to who we are as a society.

    And right now it doesn’t look good for us as a society.

    1. The Ryder Cup is obsolete anyway since most of the European players have houses here in the United States especially in Florida so they can take advantage of the weather..

  2. Its frankly ridiculous to hear the non stop lamentations about big money regarding LIV from a sport that dishes out millions in prize money from multinational corporations and has many connections to China, which dwarfs Saudi Arabia in terms of human rights offenses and is a global threat to personal freedoms on a level that make Saudi Arabia laughable. The game has changed, the country club crap is dead, the sanctimonious virtue signaling on Sunday by CEO’s in the Jim Nance booth is stale, and bleating about money in modern sports is absurd.

    1. This is a complicated issue. Rob’s not wrong. The hypocrisy over China’s involvement with the sport is maddening. Every time Rory McIlroy talks about an issue of global concern, while emblazoned head-to-toe in Nike gear made in a Chinese sweatshop is confounding. And a few years ago we all celebrated and continue to celebrate golf’s return to the Olympics, the biggest sportswashing scheme around.

      The LIV tour’s very existence is cynical, and its players are greedy, but I dislike it most of all because it doesn’t represent any true competition (54 holes of no-cut golf is NOT competition, it’s a corporate outing). That being said, the PGA Tour is one of the worst-run orgs in the world and deserves this kind of comeuppance.

      I am sad too, especially imagining how much fun attending a Ryder Cup at Bethpage with Mickelson as captain would have been.

  3. The employees of the Roman administration in the 1´st century AD reacted negatively when they were informed of a suggestion by the Emperor of introducing a certain tax for using public toilets. «We can´t tax our inhabitants for using the urinals» they said. The response from the Emperor: «Money does not stink».

    Today, we can relate to this. Money is money, they don´t taste or smell differently. In the bigger picture, how much of the income in todays society doesn´t source from drug deals, thefts, copying, child labor, «modern slavery», under payments, tax fraud, corruption, etc.? Should we all be worried about everything we do in every transaction we do. I think that is difficult in practice.

    Saudi is a dictatorship that you find in many parts of the world; Human rights do not exist. Nor does independent courts, media or police enforcement. Same in China. But money talks.

    Golfers are like all other human beings; they close their eyes and accept. It is the society that needs to change. The image of Biden greeting the Saudi Crown Prince with a Fist Bump says it all…

  4. If I were a tour player in Europe or the USA who qualified for a previous Ryder Cup team, I think I would have wondered why I am expected to donate my professional services, so the PGAs of America and Europe could make millions from my talent. A lot of traditionalists are claiming the players should be honored to play for their country, and that should be compensation enough. But only the player can decide that. And they can golf in the Olympic now to represent their country, and the chance to win a piece of gold.

    As one who remains open minded about LIV Golf, I suspect those Ryder Cup tournament owners are now realizing that maybe they should have paid the players instead of pressuring them to donate their talents. I also bet Ryder Cup players will be paid going forward, and they will have to thank LIV Golf for that.

  5. I personally think a Ryder cup without having to listen/see Brooks koepka and Bryson dechambeau will be great. Not having DJ will hurt us a little bit but it’s not the end of the world. If anything it will make it easier to give the guys that actually deserve a shot based on their play for the year. Lefty is just a talking head now which we can do without. It would have been nice to see him as a captain at some point but these guys knew what they were getting into when they made their move. It’s not like the PGA lied to them about the consequences of the choices THEY made.

  6. Is this – “ the chances of that happening are somewhere between slim and none as long as Trump remains associated with LIV Golf” – really what’s holding him back. I haven’t caught the Congressional hearings on LIV the last few months. I *suspect* his radioactivity might go beyond his take on one golf tour challenging another.

  7. Ryder Cup selection is mainly on merit with captains picks also based on potential benefit for your team. The very fact that players want to represent their country without payment is what elevated Ryder Cup to its status. Nobody forced players to compete for qualification, accept their place on the team, and play with pride and such passion. Whereas LIV golf tour is polar opposite- play solely for as much money as you can get . Most are the old guard or second raters. It will not help to grow the game by inspiring professionals at lower levels. Shame on those who are merely feeding the ideological/religious/political war between Suni and Shia led factions that finance LIV and DPWorld.

  8. Penny Sebastian

    Let’s take 48 players from LIV and 48 from the PGA. Format it exactly like the Ryder cup and play it at at Andrew’s . I’d watch that.

  9. The problem with just about every journalist is yall are left alt liberal. This is the very disease for a free society. You all use Golf, the hardest sport ever as your political sword
    LIV golf is competition to the PGA and DP tours, nothing more. Get over it, for one yall need to get a life, a capitalism type life. I am a 70 year old scratch golfer who loves the LIV tour and hates the PGA tour for the following reasons. The PGA tour used its players to make a fortune. They also hire the worst analyst’s ever to call the game. Good ridens.

    1. Precisely, and good riddance to the stale Jim Nantz, unbearable Faldo & Azinger. and the PGA Tour “yes” men from the Golf Channel. Keep making birdies Phil…….

    2. Phil – Your opinion, and therefore argument, would carry a lot more weight were you to demonstrate some level of intelligence by learning to spell and punctuate correctly.

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