Ryder Cup shows sportsmanship at its best
If golf is an island of civilisation in a world of sport awash with cheating then the Ryder Cup is the coconut-laden palm tree on top.
Golf’s core values are honesty, self-regulation, absolute and unquestioning observance of even the most archaic rules and its great gift to the world – etiquette.
The same approach pretty much applies from the most humble municipal park player to when Jim Furyk is putting for 11.5 million dollars – making a mockery of the excuses for excess in other sports that it is all down to “pressure.”
The Ryder Cup takes those golfing values and stirs in some even more uplifting ingredients.
When Colin Montgomerie and Corey Pavin sat side by side at a media conference at Celtic Manor on Monday there was an unquestioned and obvious respect for each other, for the competition, for those who had gone before and for the legacy each would leave.
Montgomerie explained that he had chosen not to use his “home captain’s prerogative” of setting the course up to suit the European players, preferring instead to create an “honest course that would reward the best team”.
Pavin refused to be drawn into discussing a particular role for Tiger Woods, insisting that when it comes to golf’s most emotional competition, every man is equal.
The Ryder Cup did dip close to unsporting with over-military associations of the “War on the Shore” in 1991 and the over-exuberant celebrations of Justin Leonard’s monster putt in 1999 but the fact that the Americans have spent a large part of the last decade apologising for the latter shows how isolated such incidents are.
Players who spent the vast majority of their working lives operating in the bubble of individuality have, once every two years, to become part of a team and in the Ryder Cup they do it with grace and humility, even in the rawness of defeat.
Compared to the monosyllabic, referee-blaming post-match culture of soccer, golf’s gentlemen are in a different world. It cannot be easy to sit up on stage and be asked why your team spirit was so much worse than your opponents’ but – and both teams have had that thrown at them in recent years – the accusation is invariably treated to a polite answer.
All sports team captains say it is an honour and a privilege to have the role but you always get the sense that Ryder Cup captains really mean it.
They rule not through ranting but through mutual respect. Both captains played down their ban on players using Twitter during the week, saying it was more a case of everybody having a chat and agreeing that mid-competition tweeting was probably not a good thing.
Civilized people playing a civilized game in the best possible spirit – what real sport should always be about.
PHOTO: Corey Pavin (L), captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team poses with the Ryder Cup and European Ryder Cup team captain Colin Montgomerie before a news conference at Cardiff airport in Cardiff, Wales September 27, 2010. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh