Lack of conceded putts at Ryder Cup sparks tension among players

Bryson DeChambeau

Justin Thomas turned his putter horizontal, hovered it over the green and glared. Shane Lowry did, too. Bryson DeChambeau put the head of his putter in the cup and laid it on the ground and scowled. 

On Saturday, the Ryder Cup became a Ryder Cup. 

In yet another example of the gamesmanship — some would call it something a bit spicier — involved in the biennial event and match play, all three players demonstratively disputed having to putt from within a yard of the hole — and not being allowed to pick up and move on. For Thomas, partnered with Jordan Spieth, it came on the 8th hole at Whistling Straits in his morning foursomes match against Bernd Wiesberger and Viktor Hovland. 

Thomas putted from 2 feet, 10 inches away, gestured and galloped off the green. From there, down two holes in the match, he and Spieth won holes 9, 10, 14, 15, 16 and 18, and would win 2-up. Motivated? Maybe.

“Americans were way down and made Justin Thomas putt about a one-and-a-half-footer on 8, and I can’t wonder if that was poking the bear,” analyst John Wood said on the NBC broadcast. “These two are very emotional players, and I think it got them both going.”

Whether Lowry and DeChambeau were watching is unknown — they were sitting out Saturday morning, and Haven, Wis., does have televisions — but they, too, protested over having to putt. 

For Lowry, it came on a 2-foot, 4-inch putt on the 1st hole of his four-ball match against Tony Finau and Harris English. His move was nearly identical to Thomas’, and his putt was 6 inches shorter. 

“It wouldn’t be the Ryder Cup if there wasn’t a little chippiness out there on the golf course,” analyst Justin Leonard, himself a former Ryder Cup player, said on the NBC broadcast. 

Then, in the grouping after Lowry, Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood made DeChambeau putt from 2 feet, 7 inches out. His reaction was more expressive than Thomas’ and Lowry’s, but with similar intent.   

Of course, whether or not to make an opponent putt is as old as the game itself. Thomas himself, just a day earlier, made Jon Rahm putt from 2 feet, 6 inches out in their Friday morning foursomes match. And it will, no doubt, happen again. 

It wouldn’t be a Ryder Cup without it. 

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