You don’t get a mulligan in professional golf.
Except this year. Wisconsin finally gets to tee it up today at Whistling Straits just up the shore of Lake Michigan after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the Ryder Cup, the pre-eminent and much-loved match-up between U.S. and European golf teams.
We’re ready. More than ready to watch and cheer the shotmaking efforts of some of the world’s best golfers on a home-state course that is perhaps the most spectacular venue in all of golf.
Hilly, long, demanding, unforgiving of errors, Whistling Straits has all the right components to make for a dramatic contest. Perched high atop the cliffs overlooking Lake Michigan, Whistling Straits combines a stadium-style course with windswept links-style grasses and hills that will require tough risk-reward assessments on every hole.
With its natural beauty and challenging layout, Whistling Straits has hosted three PGA Championships and they have been a chance for Wisconsin to showcase itself and demonstrate the fervor of its golf fans and the genial and welcoming nature of Badger State residents.
We expect this year will be no different.
The Ryder Cup traditionally brings in golf fans from around the world with huge crowds, filled hotels and a sizeable economic impact to the host country. That may be a bit subdued this year with COVID-19 travel restrictions still preventing many foreign golf fans from making it to Wisconsin.
More than 270,000 people attended the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in France and the economic impact was estimated at $275 million. The projections for this year’s delayed event are roughly half that at $135 million.
The U.S. team is captained by Steve Stricker, a Wisconsin golf legend and hometown favorite who is still claiming victories on the PGA senior tour. Some say he has put together “arguably the most talented group of players ever assembled at a Ryder Cup.”
That may be, but the Europeans have delighted in tumbling previous U.S. teams with similar reputations (we still have the nightmare of the Massacre at Medina in Chicago) and the fact is that Europe has claimed seven of the last 10 Ryder Cups.
The American squad is made up of long hitters and Whistling Straits favors that. It also has high-performing rookies. Europe, meanwhile, brings some young talents and a core of Cup veterans with a lot of experience in Cup play.
It should be fascinating – perhaps even memorable golf.
The wait is over. Tee it up.
We’ll see by Sunday whether the hills over Lake Michigan roar with shouts of “U.S.A., U.S.A.” or “Ole, ole, ole, ole.”