At this point, you have to wonder if officialdom has a Plan B up its sleeve for TV purposes on the days of the postponed Ryder Cup. Nothing, of course, can ever be up there with the Ryder Cup, but there is probably a need for something to punctuate the showing of matches past.
Andy Farrell, winner of the 2012 Golf Book of the Year award for his 100 Greatest Ever Golfers (Elliott and Thompson), is probably not alone in having come up with his plan some months ago. His would be a two-day match-play format which might consist of mixed foursomes, that golf-club staple so rarely seen in the professional game, followed by the usual singles. (Such an arrangement would surely get the best of receptions from all those – men no less than women – who have expressed dismay at the number of recent exhibition games which have tended to be all-male.)
The aim behind Farrell’s plan is to allow golf fans the world over to see the best men and women in the world sharing the same stage, as happens in tennis and in the Olympics, but never in golf.
His two teams would be led by the top man of the moment, Rory McIlroy, and the top woman, Jin Young Ko.
Each of their sides would feature four automatic qualifiers of their own sex and four picks who would serve as partners for the automatic qualifiers. McIlroy, for instance, might want to play with Charley Hull, while Ko might be keen to snap up Brooks Koepka, whom she described as “the man of my dreams” at last year’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship before issuing a delightfully giggly follow-up. “He always has like a poker face and then like stone. I like big guys.”
The mixed foursomes would be pretty straightforward in that the differential in length between the men and women would not make for any kind of teeing-area problems.
Moving on to the singles, things would still be simple enough if men were to play against men and women against women. But all that would change were they to have a blind draw – the kind used in Ryder and Solheim Cups if not the Presidents version – which would result in an exciting mixture of men versus men, women v. women, and men v. women matches. One obvious solution here would be to call on those who did the set-up at that hugely successful event in Jordan last year where all three of the Challenge Tour, Staysure Tour and LET came together. Results amply demonstrated that they got it 100-percent right.
Keith Pelley, for one, was greatly taken with the tournament, while Thomas Levet, a six-time winner on the European Tour who works at the Evian as a commentator for Canal Plus, noted at much the same time that it is not just the women who would benefit from a closer alignment of the men’s and women’s tours. “The women will be seen more if they play alongside the men – and the men will benefit from drawing mixed crowds and bigger crowds,” he said.
If Charley Hull were to come up against a male opponent in playing for McIlroy’s side, I would back her to make a good fist of winning. Rather more than most, she has the necessary experience, having battled against many more boys than girls during her formative years.
Like Tiger Woods, she was an obviously promising golfer at 2, bashing balls round the garden with a plastic club. At 6, she was playing for the boys’ side at Kettering. “Our secret weapon,” was how the lads would describe her. In which connection, my own favourite story is of that occasion when the then 6-year-old Charley was playing a 17-year-old boy and was 4 down at the turn. She then hit back with a birdie at the 10th, a mini-revival which prompted a less-than-fulsome tribute from the teenager. “B….. girls!” he yelled.
Six holes later, Charley had won. “The moment he said what he said,” she recalled, wisely, “I knew I’d got him.”
Mind you, I would not envy the man who found himself having to play Danielle Kang, the player who, in talking about her strengths, prompted trouble at last year’s Solheim Cup. That was when she said that she was there to “take souls,” “crush” the Europeans and make them “cry” – and if it involved being booed by the home crowd it worried her not at all.
Team uniforms would play a more important role than usual in any match run along the lines of the above in that anything less than strikingly different colours could result in confusing viewing.
Even today, they can go wrong in this area in Ryder Cups and Solheims, especially when the waterproofs come out.
In fairness, there wasn’t a problem in the Ryder Cup of 2010. That was when Ian Poulter informed the world that the Americans were the ones getting soaked. The rain poured through the stitching at the back of their waterproof tops and, at least as I remember it, they ended up wearing a hotchpotch of makeshift gear.
Top: Rory McIlroy could be potentially playing opposite Jin Young Ko. Photo: Maddie Meyer, Getty Images
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