Van Cynical Mailbag: Did the European Tour’s Membership Change Save the Ryder Cup?

November 18, 2015
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The Van Cynical Mailbag returns, despite popular demand. Have at it.

Hey Van Cynical, Is the Ryder Cup in danger of losing its meaning when most of the best Euros live in the U.S. and prefer the PGA Tour?—Paul R. Wilkinson via Twitter

It might have been, Roger Wilko, but the European Tour just cut its requirements for membership to five events instead of 13 to accommodate the transplanted Europeans in America. It’s always been a tour-against-tour thing for pride, that hadn’t changed. What has changed is the hard feelings from the late ‘70s and ‘80s when the Euros felt like they were getting second-class treatment after years of losing and, more important, didn’t get fair access to the three major championships played in the U.S. The players on the two teams didn’t know each other and unfamiliarity bred contempt. Now they’re all pretty friendly and there aren’t likely to be any Seve-Azinger moments. It’s not the War By the Shore anymore but the Euros count playing on a winning Ryder Cup side the same as winning a major.

Oh Cynical Czar, Any thoughts on the changes from the European Tour? Slow play seems high on the radar again.—The Bogey Train via Twitter

Yeah, taxes and inflation and job growth are hot topics in political debates, too, but it’s all just talk. Keith Pelley, the Euro Tour leader, says his organization will be a leader when it comes to slow play. I’ll believe it the day after Yogi Berra believes it. Nobody has produced an effective plan to counter slow play. In my opinion, you’d have to have an actual shot clock with each group and make it a black-and-white decision with no gray area. Hell, Rolex or some big watch-maker could sponsor the clocks. I don’t see that happening. Besides, one part of slow play is closely tied to every par 5 being reachable and one or two par 4s being drivable. When it comes to slow play, Trainspotter, expect nothing. You won’t be disappointed.

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Hey Van the Man, Is it a big deal if Danny Willett beats Rory for the Race to Dubai title?—Sam Belden via Twitter

The Race to Dubai is like Ron Burgundy—kind of a big deal… in Europe. In America, it’s mostly just a rumor. So if Willett wins, rioting will not erupt and bread pudding pies will not be thrown, even if they should be.

Hey Van Shanksalot, Why does the guy beside me feel that I need a shot-by-shot account of his 92 AND the bad breaks he got. #19thHoleProblems—Brian Bailey via Twitter

Hey, it was an 82 and that last putt of mine was halfway down before it spit back out at me, Pearl. It was in! I mean… I don’t know what you’re talking about, Dick.

Van Shanksalot, If Justin Leonard had been around in the pre-bomber days, would he have had more success?—David Troyan via Twitter

That sounds good in theory, Troyan Horse, but when were the pre-bomber days? The ‘90s with Davis Love, Fred Couples, John Daly and Greg Norman? The ‘80s with Fred and Norman? The ‘70s with Jack Nicklaus? The ‘60s with Arnold Palmer and George Bayer? The ‘50s with Sam Snead? There are always long hitters in the game, always have been and always will be. Probably Old Tom Morris was ticked off because Angus McDougal blew it 30 yards past him with a mashie. So, no. Leonard did all right. He won a major and had a few other great chances (1997 PGA, 2003 PGA, 1999 British Open), won 13 tour events and hit the most famous shot in Ryder Cup history. How much more success does he need?

Hey Van Cranky, Would you rather see the fall series or just a month of silly money-grab events?—Ryan Young via Twitter

The fall series, definitely. It gave us Peter Malnati, proving that nice guys can finish first. I’d like to see a little variety—maybe a stableford event, maybe a match play. The Skins Game had its day, its farewell was the year Fred Funk put on a skirt. That was the last time it was an actual watchable show. The only other silly season event I liked was The Skills Challenge, which forced pros to hit trick shots (like Big Break does, only better). That show was badly mismanaged and produced but the concept was pretty good. Other than that, the silly season was horrible. It is not missed.

Hey Van Smack, How are the sponsors feeling about the fall series schedule? Are they getting bang for their buck?—Kevin Montminy via Twitter

Well, it’s less bang, KevMo, but it’s also less buck, so it’s all relative. You never would’ve heard of McGladrey—now RSM—if not for this week’s tournament. Every sponsor has a different reason for buying in and if they aren’t happy with their bang, or their goals change, they get out. That’s one thing the PGA Tour doesn’t get credit for—finding sponsors to keep about 100 tournaments going on three tours (PGA, Champions, and now the tours in China, Canada and South America.