Ryder Cup in Russia – Padraig Harrington Says It’s Good for Golf
The European Tour is gearing up for what has recently become an annual thrashing of the West at the Ryder Cup. It used to be something of a calm affair, but that’s no longer the case. It’s a fiercely competitive time of year, and a lot of time has been spent on the U.S.A.’s Europe problem as it heads into the next round. For the Americans, here’s the next kicker – the Ryder Cup is in Russia this year, in the city of Moscow in the month of September. Although there has always been a perception of a European Russia, as symbolized by Moscow and the western portion of the country, and an Asian Russia, toward the Bering Sea, Europe believes that Russia is the next big market for golf since China – at least that’s what Padraig Harrington thinks.
China has become a success story in terms of professional golf. Shanshan Feng hasn’t hurt that tendency at all, and sanctioned tournaments are celebrating the end of their first decade. But can Russia duplicate such a story in the snow country, amidst troubling politics, economic conditions, and a generally anti-western attitude toward culture, in which golf is included?
Expanding the European tour into Russia would certainly add a potent element to world competition if it does work. And it isn’t as though Russia isn’t ready. Since the Moscow City Golf Club in the central city was established, with lakes and a 14th century church on the premises, golf has maintained a presence in “European” Russia. The Pestovo Golf and Yacht Club is situated about twenty kilometers from the city, but the crown jewel, the one that should be able to host a major event, is the Moscow Country Club. Ironically, it was established in the 70s when Russia was trying to entice western businesses. The 18 hole, 7,015 course is a Robert Trent Jones design, a lot of professional golfers and designers have spoken highly of it, and the European PGA has endorsed it. The Sports Complex and surrounding hotel facilities are built to take on the guests and fans.
I wondered at first whether there might be some of the problems that beset the Winter Games one or two years ago, but in central Moscow, things tend to get done a little better, and a little more quickly. September is a good month, with the snows a little way off yet, and the only thing that remains is to know whether all the parties will be speaking to each other by the time the Ryder Cup rolls around. Historically, if there are any joint ventures that can at least temporarily thaw relations, sports and music are two of the best, and one often follows the other, but it’s anyone’s guess where Russia’s relationship with either Europe or the U.S. is going. The Americans might be even a little more tense than the Europeans about going there, which is just what a team that’s already on the ropes doesn’t need.
It will probably be a while before Russia will be including many players on the actual Ryder Cup team, although there is a working golf academy in Moscow, and the Russian Open has been held for a few years now. I would assume that a certain number of fans might show up to see the curiosity, but I can’t think that there will be tremendous crowd emotion for a European/American competition. It all depends on how “European” the residents of Moscow feel – as of today, probably not much.
Russia is a cultural jewel. I was there for three months, and didn’t even get started. That should make it a candidate for such gatherings right off the bat. Taking high level pro golf competition there might open a door for other parts of Eastern Europe for doing the same. Harrington says it’s good for golf – it may at least be good for Europe. So, let’s tee it up – harsh!