Why are all the big decisions suddenly being made in Scotland? Last week we had the one we’ve been waiting for for 260 years with the R&A finally allowing in women members albeit limited to 15 initially. And then early the very next morning the residents of Scotland voted 'No' to being an independent country. This was a relief as the thought of needing my passport to play some of the greatest links courses in the British Isles was somewhat incongruous.
Which leaves the big one this weekend – The Ryder Cup – in Gleneagles, Scotland.
I’ve watched every Ryder Cup since 1981 and during that time there’s been lots of changes. The two most obvious to me are not concerning the actual golf but are all about a couple of aspects of the ‘spectacle’ - attire and behaviour.
It wasn’t until Tony Jacklin first became Captain and raised the game by flying the European team out to the States on Concorde all attired in matching beige suits that the whole costume department of this theatrical event took off. Players, player’s wives, caddies, entourage etc are all now beautifully dressed in perfectly matching and coordinated outfits - and the European Team came straight out of the blocks with a grey check fashion faux par and their star player with the wrong shoes on.
It really is a fully produced, heavily invested sponsored event with every possible combination of will he, wont he, should he, can he pre match speculation from the various media that swarm around it. As a contest between some of the richest men in sport , all competing for bragging rights it’s easy to see and perhaps understand how the massed crowds can get slightly over exuberant especially with ample opportunity to top up with alcohol throughout the whole event.
I hope that the crowd that attends, with some coming straight off the Scottish Referendum dogfight, remember that this is golf and a certain standard of behaviour is expected. Call me old fashioned but when I watch golf (or for that matter cricket or even go to the theatre) there has to be a clear distinction in the standards of behaviour to when I show up at the stadium of my football team. No ‘war on the shore’ please, no ‘into the bearpit’, no ‘braveheart’ battles cries.
So will it be the European Blue or American Red that eventually triumphs? All the smart money will go on the European team – they have the highest ranked players, they’re playing ‘at home’ and the USA are clearly the underdogs. I’ve had the pleasure of staying at Gleneagles a number of times and playing all of the courses there – The Kings, The Queens and the PGA Centenary, originally created by Jack Nicklaus as The Monarchs. The Ryder Cup course is actually a little bit of homeland USA sitting in the Scottish glens and so I think the Americans will be quite comfortable with it and after recent defeats may have a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude. I think their biggest asset is actually their Captain, Tom Watson – the man who won four of his five Open titles in Scotland – perhaps Captaining the winning Ryder Cup team there too, might give that extra motivation to add one more trophy to his impressive Scottish collection.
One thing’s for sure though, is that throughout the three days, and should the Americans win the trophy, Mr Watson will remain on dry land and conduct himself with the utmost decorum. He is a true statesman of the sport and will act like one at all times - an ETIQUS golfer if ever there was one.
Enjoy the action – golfing not military!
PS The big watch story of the week surrounded the choice of watches given to each member of the Ryder Cup teams by their sponsors. Apparently The European Team were each given a Steel Rolex GMT -2 priced at £7500 whilst the Americans were each given an £4500 Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra. I guess as multimillionaires who can afford to travel to many different time zones and most of them can afford to buy a very big boat, then the model choice might be appropriate. I still think these premium brands need a credible model for the sport they spend so much money on sponsoring – a 'golf master' anyone?
PPS The other big watch story of the week concerned the £16,400 limited edition Parmigiani given to Football Association chairman Greg Dyke and other FIFA executives in the ‘goody-bags’ they each received at the Football World Cup in Brazil in the summer. The watches apparently cost the Brazilian FA £5300 each. The main story seems to have focussed on the ethics question and the behaviour once again of FIFA. My perspective is slightly different. The story highlights the significant retail margin that premium brands can achieve on the sale of their timepieces and once again confirms to me the value I can offer to the golfer by selling a quality product directly to them online.