"We should move mountains to make the Ryder Cup happen this year"


Let’s just get it out of the way right here at the start. Yes, I am the man with the dogs. The last time I wrote in these pages, I had experienced a mere taste of the canine madness. In the intervening weeks I have apparently become a full-time dog cinematographer.

Recently, I was out walking the superstars and shouting sizeable amounts of abuse at them for eating grass, when I was approached by a couple.

“Are you the sports commentator”? they asked. Instantly, of course, I removed my furious scowl and replied with a winning smile that I was. But before I could inquire as to whether they were fans of my seminal works in golf, rugby or athletics they leapt upon my companions.

“So is this really Olive and Mabel??! Do you mind if we have a photo with them”? Fortunately before they could grab their dog selfies Mabel ruined the moment by deciding to crack one out on the path.

I suppose what I am saying is that I really need actual sport to return. In this past week I have been offered all sorts to commentate on – shoot-em-up video games, guinea pigs doing karate, kittens playing soccer and rental cars being cleaned. And as far as I’m aware it’s only a highlights package on the guinea pigs, with Sky having won the live rights.

The only golf I have done has been the BMW Indoor Series, run by The European Tour. I have enjoyed watching pros tackle St Andrews and Portrush, recreated in incredible detail on simulators, all from the sanctuary of their own homes. It is a bit of fun and something
to pass the time, but it is not yet golf. Apart from anything else when players find the rough
they still hit their recovery from a firm AstroTurf mat. It won’t be realistic until they’re forced to gouge it out of a deep shagpile from a 1970s living room.

But the good news is that real golf is starting to trickle back into our lives. I’m sure a lot of you will have been out on the course again because the authorities have decided that golf CAN be played under social-distancing regulations. OK, at some clubs you may only be allowed to play on your own, but this just means nobody can disprove your claims that you shot a couple over and had a run of five birdies from the 11th.

Meanwhile a strange sort of professional golf has also returned. McIlroy, Johnson, Fowler and Wolff had a skins game at Seminole in Florida. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson relived 'The Match' with a couple of American football players thrown in for broader appeal. 

It's difficult to know what to make of this type of golfing entertainment. Obviously charities benefit enormously and it is clearly some sign of progress as we move out of the wilderness. It does though, gives us a glimpse of how difficult golf events will be to stage in the near future – and how different things might be for a long time to come. 

The most perplexing issue seems to be sport without spectators. In football we have already seen it with The Bundesliga and The Premier League. But we know it is a deeply soulless experience. Like the comedy shows you now see without the laughter, the jokes seem less funny. In sport, the highs and lows seem less intense.

Fans make the Ryder Cup atmosphere unlike anything else in golf.

A powerful lobby is now building against a Ryder Cup without fans. The top two players in the world, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, as well as the star pairing of Le Golf National, Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood, are among those who have said that if that were the option they should just postpone it until next year.

But perhaps the players are actually the least important in all of this. Apart from anything else the broadcasters need something for their contracts this year. Likewise the sponsors will be desperate for a return on their investment. And above all we should move mountains to make it happen for the wider public.

If, come September, we are still in the position where normal life is on hold, then we will all be so stir-crazy, so mentally fragile, that we will need any kind of diversion. Look, within just a few weeks of lockdown we were so lost that millions tuned in to watch Dustin Johnson wearing shorts and hitting it all over the shop. Or indeed clicked on a couple of dogs doing sod all. Think about the effects of six months.

So make the Ryder Cup happen and I don’t care how it takes place. If it is without spectators, so be it. If it is with social distancing between players who are carrying their own bags, all well and good. Hey, if they even have to play it on separate simulators with rolls of thick carpet on hand, I’m up for it.

Hopefully, I can even do some commentary. If I’m not too busy with my hectic schedule of live kitten soccer.