ROME—Scottie Scheffler fought the tears he knew were coming and it was a losing battle because tears cannot be controlled. They were not waterfalls, they were not of the variety that caught his breath, but his eyes were wet and his face was red and since TV cameras caught those tears the world could see them too.
Scheffler had just lost in historic fashion at Marco Simone, he and Brooks Koepka getting bounced 9 and 7 by Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg. The World No. 1, buried by a player who was in college just months before. There is no need to go over the particulars except to note he couldn’t drive and his chipping wasn’t great and his putting remains the bane of his existence, although that’s not really the point because the defeat is nothing more than pretext. Scheffler is a competitor and the past two years have proven he’s one of this game’s best, so on a surface level it checks out that the performance caused the big bad fella to weep. But it was not out of self-pity; Scheffler was embarrassed and angry and wanted to be as far from the scene of the crime as possible, but he also knew he needed to be there for his teammates, and the same thing that spurred Scheffler to be there was also what caused him to weep.
Those are the tears that only come when being a part of something bigger than yourself.
Because of its importance, because it’s staged for just three days every two years, the Ryder Cup lends itself to extrapolation from even the most granular of moments. Usually this is second-guessing a captain’s strategy or the chirpiness between players and crowd or the indignation of a putt not conceded. That is all well and good. But what makes the Ryder Cup the Ryder Cup is the undercurrent of emotion that powers this event, for it is a tide no one stands a chance against.
We learned of this in 2021. Rory McIlroy came undone on Sunday when discussing his team’s belief in him when he didn’t have his best. Darren Clarke, when he played through the grief of his wife’s passing in 2006. José María Olazabal struggled to find his voice in 2012 after dedicating his club’s miracle to his friend Seve Ballesteros, who had departed a year before. It’s hard to find a Ryder Cup where this hasn’t happened, for this match has a habit of tearing down walls and laying bare what remains—nothing more than heart and soul and dreams both fulfilled and not.
This is a singular sport, so when the Ryder Cup comes around we often hear that those inside the ropes don’t harbor the same sentiments towards it that those outside the ropes do. Sometimes we forget that our passion for golf is their profession. We get worked up over an event only to see certain parties take advantage of that excitement by bleeding us dry for their own financial benefit. Look too long and it’s easy to get jaded at the unnecessary fog that can cloud this celebration.
Then we see the tears of Scheffler and we remember why we’re drawn to this event in the first place.
From afar it can come off weak. Men are not supposed to cry; this is just a golf event. But for those that look at this score as the Ryder Cup heads into its final day and think it’s indicative of a team that doesn’t care, that doesn’t want it, that doesn’t understand the dynamic that the Europeans seemingly do … well, you’re not necessarily wrong, because there are 12 American players and not all were there Saturday afternoon as the U.S. staged its comeback.
But one of those watching was Scheffler, who was laboring like hell through the pain because he thought being there for his boys mattered. Which says more about him than any score could.
This article was originally published on golfdigest.com