DUBLIN, Ohio-- Is the Ryder Cup over-rated? Over-hyped? Over-cooked?
For the top-tier players who are seeking major championships as their primary quarry, the answer appears to be an unequivocal yes. At the very least, the event has been blown all out of proportion.
So sayeth none other than Jack Nicklaus, who on Tuesday sounded as though he were speaking words that Tiger Woods might have offered about the famed matches against the European team.
Woods has long claimed that too much has been made of the Ryder Cup, a veritable exhibition that has become something more closely akin to an intercontinental skirmish. Nicklaus, speaking while serving as host of the PGA Tour's Memorial Tournament, feels likewise.
Nicklaus detoured into a long, animated dissertation on the pitfalls of the Ryder and Presidents cups, beginning with a 90-minute conversation he had with new Ryder captain Paul Azinger last fall after Nicklaus led the U.S. team to a Presidents Cup victory in Montreal.
Along the way, he seemingly took what were interpreted as shots at assistant captains Dave Stockton and Ray Floyd, both longtime Champions Tour players in their 60s, not to mention past Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman, who took the team to Ireland on a private jet last time around as a means of building unity.
Azinger had called to tap Nicklaus' brain, since the U.S. team has been getting annually drilled in the Ryder. Apparently, the tap spewed forth a gusher of opinion.
"He said, 'What do you do?'" Nicklaus recalled. "I says, 'Paul, it's what I don't do.' I said, to me, these guys all got where they got because of their record and how they played. Tell them how to play golf? That's ridiculous. And to hire a bunch of -- hire or appoint, whatever you do -- a bunch of assistant captains to teach them how to play alternate shot or match play, I said, come on, give me a break.
"These guys, they don't even know the guys (assistants) you're bringing in. I said, 'Why would you do that?' I said all I do is get out of the way. And I asked the guys, I said, give me who you want to play with and who you don't want to play with. Who do you think you'll do well with? All those things. And then just go have fun.
"I don't know whether Paul listened or didn't. I think he did listen a lot because we talked quite a bit. And what he's going to do, I don't know. But I think that to make too much out of what a captain's job is, I mean, to me to take a whole team over to go play a practice round, a month before an event?"
"You give me Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk who are basically No. 1, 2, 3 in the world on our team, and they just finished playing all the major championships, and they all are working their tail off, then they just had the Tour Championship and you say, 'OK guys, now we're going to do something important. We're going to play the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup.'
"Come on, give me a break. I mean, is it a nice event? It's a great event. Is it different? Absolutely it's different. Is it exciting? Absolutely it's exciting. But it's a goodwill event. It's for bragging rights.
"I think the U.S. Open or the Masters or British Open, it's a little bit more than bragging rights. It's an event that stands on the record book. You go back and tell me who won the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup 10 years ago, or whatever it is, you just -- who was the star player, you couldn't even, not even close. You won't even know who sat out and who didn't sit out.
"But it's a great event. I'm not trying to put down the event by any means. It's a great event, it's great fun. I think it's great entertainment. But it's not, you know, it's not the Tour Championship, which they just finished, or it's not the Masters or the PGA Championship.
"These guys, to just sit there after they played all those events, to try and treat them like little kids and say, you know, 'Now you got to do this and we got to do this and we got to play this way,' I mean, come on. Get out of the way and let them go play. That's sort of my feeling."
As for Woods, he famously asked the media at a recent Ryder Cup if anyone could name Nicklaus' record in the Ryder Cup -- and got nothing but dead air as a response.
Somehow, I am guessing that Nicklaus' stream-of-consciousness patter will get some play in Europe, where the Ryder Cup occupies a place in the sports pantheon that is probably tenfold more important than in the States.