The Ryder Cup Tournament kicked off this week at Medinah Country Club in Illinois. The golf event classically pits the best American players against Europeans in team competition. John Feinstein, a writer for the Washington Post and Golf Digest, told Bill Littlefield there are plenty of reasons to watch this time around.
“Rory McIlroy, who’s had an extraordinary year, won four major tournaments including a major title,” Feinstein said on this week’s Only A Game. “There’s no question that he’s the best player in the world right now.”
Feinstein said that Lee Westwood and Sergio García could also benefit Europe’s team with their experience playing in the Ryder Cup.
“On the U.S. side, you always start with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who ironically have terrible Ryder Cup records,” Feinstein said. Woods has played on six Ryder Cup teams and has one win, while Mickelson has played on eight and has two wins.
“Because of their experience, they’re key guys,” Feinstein said. “There are four American rookies on this American team and I think they will take a lot of their cues from Tiger and Mickelson.”
Though the NFL replacement officials debacle has monopolized media attention over the last week, Feinstein said the Ryder Cup could still capture viewers.
“On Tuesday morning when the practice rounds began, I was in Chicago and the place was packed,” Feinstein said. “The people in Chicago are very fired up for this event. I think now that the NFL officiating thing is over, you will see a lot of focus on the Ryder Cup.”
The Ryder Cup has historically drawn animated and even badly behaved fans, which is a concern for this year’s tournament.
“I actually worry that if the U.S. were to get behind, the fans could go overboard,” Feinstein said. “You hope the crowds are enthusiastic, that they’re partisan, but that they stay under control.”
Feinstein said he was scarred by fan behavior during singles play between Payne Stewart and Colin Montgomerie at the 1999 Ryder Cup in Massachusetts.
“I’ve never heard an athlete abused like that in my life, to the point where Stewart actually had several spectators taken out during the course of the match by security,” Feinstein remembered.
After the Americans clinched the victory that year, fans charged the green before a player from Europe had finished his round.
“People remember that day for the great American comeback,” Feinstein said. “But I also remember it for the behavior of the crowd and I hope that nothing like that ever happens again.”