This is the first open letter I’ve ever written. Couple of reasons for that. One, I’m not Sinead O’Connor. Two, I’ve never felt the need. Until now.
It’s just over a week until the opening shots of the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National near Paris. It’s a great event, is the Ryder Cup.
The first one I attended was Celtic Manor in 2010. I remember that Friday morning vividly.
The alarm in the Premier Inn my colleague Bryce Ritchie and I were staying in went off at stupid o’clock. We quickly got ready, jumped in our hire car and sped off towards the course.
By 5.45am, we were running, in near darkness, with rainwater cascading like a river at our feet, down a steep hill, towards the first tee. We wanted to make sure we had a seat in the grandstand to see the first shots hit. We waited, as the rain hammered down, for over an hour before the first folk arrived on the tee.
What an experience that was. As the stand filled up around us, the anticipation frothed exponentially.
The rain never let up. If anything, it got worse. No-one cared. By the time the first players arrived on the tee – Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, and US pair Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson – the atmosphere could have powered a small town. There was singing, chanting, cheering, the stamping of feet, deafening applause. It was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Raw, primal, real.
Fast-forward four years to the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Again, Bryce and I hit the road at five past ridiculous and, again, we took our seats in the grandstand before sunrise. And what a sunrise it was. Daylight broke gloriously beyond the hills in the distance, illuminating the first hole of the PGA Centenary Course in an intense golden light. I won’t lie, it put a lump in my throat.
You must remember it, too. You were there.
And you almost ruined it.
Sitting in the front row in your “oh-so-quirky” coordinated outfits, you shamelessly hijacked the experience with a comprehensive repertoire of juvenile songs “paying tribute” to the European team.
Hang on a minute: Did you think people were laughing with you? Lads…
Every time something resembling spontaneity simmered around you, you piped up, silencing your fellow spectators into indulging your childish, self-serving “bantz”.
Hang on a minute: Did you think you were doing us all a favour, performing your unoriginal brand of “puns in songs”? Lads…
Still, you persisted and, to your credit, you managed to get your 15 minutes of fame long after the match ended. TV appearances, awards dinners, stuff like that. Fair play.
The problem is that it’s a good hour-and-a-half later but you’re still adamant it’s five past.
The novelty, such as it was, has worn off. The joke, if it was ever funny, has worn thin.
Yet you persist, determinedly, stubbornly insistent that you matter more than the average fan.
I’m wrong? Prove it. Stand down. Leave the tunes at home and, instead, just join in at Le Golf National. Nobody’s saying you shouldn’t be there. But if you think the Ryder Cup is your own personal sandpit, rest assured it’s not.
Like all great sporting moments, that first tee is at its best when it’s enjoyed with unadulterated, unplanned fervour; not well-rehearsed self-indulgence. Give me a guttural roar of barely coherent appreciation over “Europe’s got its Hatton, hip hip hip hooray” any day of the week. One is an authentic, primitive and pure reaction; the other is an over-thought ditty designed (in my opinion) to steal focus from the main event. Can you guess which is which?
Do you remember the 2010 football World Cup in South Africa? Remember how each and every match was sabotaged by vuvuzelas? Those God-awful tuneless horns? Lads… that’s you. The vuvuzelas of golf.
I might be wrong, but I feel like you know all this, too. I think you get a kick out of sticking a dissonant two fingers up to people like me who wish you no ill but who just wish you’d show a bit of courtesy towards your fellow fans. I think you’ve enjoyed all the attention. I think you enjoy the notoriety more. I think you’ll read this with unfiltered joy that it’s “all about you”. I think you actually believe you are Thomas Bjorn’s 13th man, all because you’ve noticed that Justin Rose’s surname shares as many syllables as the title of a Spandau Ballet track.
But prove me wrong. Prove me wrong and I’ll gladly buy you all a pint and retract every assumption I’ve ever made about you.
That’s the challenge.
See you in Paris.
That’s ‘see’, not ‘hear’.