Did that really happen? We (meaning the US Ryder Cup team) needed only 4.5 points to bring the coveted Ryder Cup back home for the first time in several years and yet we were unable to put enough points up on the board. I witnessed first hand the rise and fall of the US team in Chicago.
My dad and I arrived for the final practice day on Thursday. We got oriented with the course and made our way over to the practice range where we saw some of the members of the US warming up.
We bounced around between the US and European practice rounds and then made our way to the merchandise tent to only be greeted with a massive crowd, all waiting for an elusive autograph from Tiger Woods. He was actually in the merchandise tent signing autographs….this never happens! Once he left, we tried to do some shopping but the tent was jammed from wall to wall with people grabbing everything in sight. The checkout line was looped three times thru the tent! We gave up and hoped there would still be merchandise the next day.
The first round of the Ryder Cup (Friday) started bright and early with my dad, the two Alans, and I getting to the course right before the first tee off time. The noise emanating from the tee box was unlike anything I had heard on a golf course. I have been on several courses where the “Tiger Roar” takes place but nothing compares to the opening day of the Ryder Cup where the players admit to being the most nervous they have ever been in a tournament. The entire length of the fairway was lined 3 deep on each side and was solid thru to the second and third holes. Our game plan through out the week was to go to the 5th hole, watch the 1st and 2nd shots of all the groups and then move over to the 13th or 15th hole.
Each day, the crowds grew and grew, topping out at about 50,000 on Sunday. Every where you turned, there were hundreds of people. There were guys in traditional Scottish kilts, american flag pants, weird spandex suits for both the US and Europe and countless other getups. It was great to see the pageantry and flair throughout the week. It was so different than being at a stroke play event where each player is on their own, playing for a multi-million dollar purse. The Ryder Cup pits the US against Europe, all for a tiny gold trophy and bragging rights. No money, FedExCup points, just pride for your country and teammates.
Friday and Saturday’s team play left the Americans feeling pretty good despite the two wins the Europeans picked up late Saturday. However, once we started to see the groups roll through in their singles matches on Sunday at the 5th hole, we grew worried for what Sunday held in store for Team USA. Every shot the Americans hit into the 5th (par 5) was short and in the bunkers. The leader board behind us didn’t help to calm our fears either as the “1up” and “2up” were for the Europeans and sadly, not the US.
Once the teams made their way through the 5th, we headed back to the International Pavilion as the crowds were already stationed on the rest of the course’s fairways. All the bleachers were filled by 7 am so there was no hope what so ever there!
We watched the American’s collapsed from the tvs in the International Pavilion which was filled with fans for both teams so there was a lot of cheering and a lot of moaning and groaning going on. Once Steve Stricker missed his putt on the 18th for the Europeans to gain their last point, we headed for the exit with the rest of the sad and surprised Americans. The Europeans started celebrating immediately, as they should but we were glad the buses were quick and fast to take us to our car.
Overall, it was a great experience despite the “colossal collapse” by the Americans at Medinah. It was certainly a surprise to experience the quick turnaround by the Europeans on Sunday; they simply played much better than the Americans. They channeled the spirit of Seve especially their coach, Jose Maria Olzabal. It was touching to know how much Seve’s spirit was present all week with the European team. All in all, it was a great week with a lot of great memories.