Reader Paul Christiansen of Oslo, Norway, offers one European's perspective on the British Open, Kenny Perry and the upcoming Ryder Cup. He responds to Jack Nicklaus' comments during the British Open about the motivation of American tour players: "These kids today play perfect conditions every week. If they don't like what's going on, they're finishing 10th or 15th and still making a check. I don't think it makes them as tough." Here's Paul:
Jack Nicklaus commented on the absence of younger players at the top of the British Open leader board, relating this to what he believes is a lack of hungry golfers. They make so much money today that they really do not hve to push themselves to win. Nicklaus' comments are always well worth listening to and he could even have expanded that to include some of the more experienced golfers on the the Tour as well. Point in case I believe, is Kenny Perry, the winner of John Deere Classic the week before the Open. He was qualified to play in the Open, but did not go because he had committed to play that week in Milwaukee. And as he said, his main goal is to provide for a living for himself and his family. For a player who has won three times on the PGA tour this year, I think it is rather poor showing not to play the Open. Why play in rain and storm, in high rough and pot bunkers, etc. when you can play beautifully manicured courses in the sunshine in your own country? Why is it that the American golfers with their superior rankings fall short in Ryder Cup matches? Could it be that they lack the competitive edge and the hunger to win?
How do you say "Them's fightin' words!" in Norwegian, Paul? Alas, you and Jack, may have it correct. But Jack, like all zen masters, speaks in paradoxes. Just before he made those "hungry" comments, he wrote in the upcoming September Ryder Cup issue of Golf Digest about how American players need to lighten up a bit in the Ryder Cup, which is, after all, an exhibition. In other words, be don't be so hungry.
I know I tend to sound ambivalent about the Ryder Cup. On the one hand, I think the matches have been made too important for the wrong reasons. Fundamentally, I believe the Ryder Cup is an exhibition by some of the best golfers in the world, great entertainment and an exercise in sportsmanship, camaraderie and goodwill.
The individual performances, good or bad, don't determine who the best players in the world are. Nor does the side that happens to win determine on what side of the Atlantic the best golf is played.
Too many people believe otherwise, and that helps to make the matches too contentious among the teams and their fans.
All of what Jack says is thought-provoking, on either of the "hungry" issue. Look for more in the September issue.
And thanks for the letter.