Battle of Brookline was high and low point of Ryder Cup

The second green during a practice round at the 39th Ryder Cup golf matches at the Medinah Country...

The second green during a practice round at the 39th Ryder Cup golf matches at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Illinois, September 25, 2012. (REUTERS)

TIM MCKAY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:58 PM ET

It is recalled both as one of American golf's finest hours and a blight on an exhibition purportedly build on sportsmanship.

Given the over-dramatic tag of "The Battle of Brookline," the 1999 Ryder Cup in Brookline, Mass., is remembered for two very different reasons.

The good: An astounding comeback by the U.S. after going into Sunday's matches down 10-6 to Europe, capped by Justin Leonard's unlikely putt on the 17th hole that became the clincher for the U.S.

The bad: The ensuing celebration as American team members and wives stormed that green and fans went wild while Jose Maria Olazabal still had a putt that could have kept the European hopes alive.

The embarrassment later was referred to as "the arrival of the golf hooligan," and while Ryder Cup tournaments since that time have been fairly respectful, it's easy to see how emotion can lead to what some may deem as inappropriate celebration.

Bubba Watson said it happened to him in 2010 at The Manor in Wales.

"Everybody makes fun of what me and Jeff Overton did at Wales," he said Thursday. "Our team was losing. I think every part of our team was losing. There was a hole next to us, so I cheered, trying to get (my teammates) excited the next hole over. I was trying to pump up my teammates...

"No player out here from either team is trying to disrespect anybody, it's just for the love of that little trophy that we want to win for our countries."

The players have been talking up a respectful atmosphere and they're not likely to engage in any untoward antics. But how will the Chicago crowd react?

Hopefully in good fun, European Ryder Cup veteran Sergio Garcia said.

"I think at the end of the day, we learned a good lesson in '99," he said. "The Ryder Cup needs to be be played with the right spirit. You cheer as hard as you want for your team, and then you respect the other team as much as possible.

"I think if that happens, we'll be able to play our best golf and it will be a great match to watch."

The players remember Brookline in a different light, depending on their allegiances.

"My favourite memory is '99 when Justin Leonard made the putt on 17," Ryder Cup rookie Webb Simpson said Thursday. "I think that was the moment where I realized how special the Ryder Cup was, seeing the guys run on the green ... hopefully not in Jose's line."

The PGA of America brochure given to fans this week states that "we hope there will be no excessive partisanship displayed by the gallery," and that "the prospective misfortunes of an opposing player should not be celebrated."

In other words, behave yourselves.

tim.mckay@sunmedia.ca

 


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