x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The worst kind of history was on show

True Colours The Battle of Brookline, as the 1999 Ryder Cup came to be known, was the most controversial tournament in the competition's history.

Justin Leonard of the US celebrates winning the Ryder Cup, but Europe could still smugly mock the shirts their rivals were wearing.
Justin Leonard of the US celebrates winning the Ryder Cup, but Europe could still smugly mock the shirts their rivals were wearing.

OK, let us get all the inconsequential stuff out of the way. The Battle of Brookline, as the 1999 Ryder Cup came to be known, was the most controversial tournament in the competition's history. The United States beat Europe 14 ½ to 13 ½ to win the trophy, but the team were heavily criticised after they ran over the green following a long putt from Justin Leonard on the 17th green before Jose Maria Olazabal had enjoyed a chance to take his putt.

The legendary broadcaster Alistair Cooke described the last day of the tournament as "a date that will live in infamy" in a Letter from America called: "The arrival of the golf hooligan." Lost amongst all of this was the real crime. Yes, it was committed by the American team, but it was a sartorial slip-up, rather than trampling over the spirit of fair play. The US is a proud nation that cherishes its history, but while covering the players shirts in pictures of former cup-winning teams was intended as a fitting gesture to the stars of yesteryear, what transpired was the image of players seemingly wearing a wall of the USPGA headquarters.

Antique frames and grainy black-and-white images of bygone legends are all well and good - on a mantlepiece. Sadly when transposed onto manmade fabric and nestling under the sweaty armpit of Leonard, or stretched across the gut of Phil Mickelson, they lose more than a tad of their majesty. - Alex Kunawicz