While sports fans in Minnesota are looking forward to events such as the Super Bowl in 2018 and the Final Four in 2019, perhaps the biggest event of all is right around the corner. The Ryder Cup will be at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska from Sept. 27 to Oct. 2.
Patrick Hunt, chairman for the event, said he expects a quarter-million people will attend the six-day event, with three practice days and three days for matches between the American and European teams.
"We are completely sold out and that includes not only the competition rounds, but the practice rounds as well," Hunt said. "All of the tickets have been taken up by some very lucky people. We had a lottery and all tickets were purchased for every round from practice on Tuesday to the final competition on Sunday."
The every-other-year event has taken on increased importance this year, with U.S. golfers talking about improving their recent performances in the matches. The European team has won eight of the past 10 Ryder Cups.
Jordan Spieth, the best golfer in the world, said Wednesday that winning the Ryder Cup is his greatest goal for 2016 — more important than major events or the Olympics.
"[The Americans are] tired of hearing about changes that need to be made," Spieth said in Abu Dhabi. "We're tired of hearing about the past and we're ready to believe in a younger, more hungry team going forward."
The U.S. team will be captained by Davis Love III, and Hunt talked about the influence he will have on the tournament and the venue.
"As the host captain, he really has total influence and control on the course setup," Hunt said. "One thing he has stated, in part because of his belief in fair play for the Ryder Cup and also because [European captain] Darren Clarke is such a good friend, he's stated that he's not going to trick anything up, not going to play with the rough, not do any gamesmanship tricks. It's going to be pretty straight forward with a scoring setup."
Hunt said no players have toured the site yet, but leaders of the American team have played at Hazeltine.
"No potential team members have come in yet; the captains have come in and played the golf course," he said. "From what I can tell, a larger part of the strategy on the American side is for the captains and the vice captains to get here quite a bit and share that knowledge in advance of the players coming in for their practice rounds."
The current top eight in the U.S. Ryder Cup points standings are Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker, Kevin Kisner, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka — with Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson at No. 9 and No. 10.
The top eight make the team; Love later will make four captain's picks.
Hunt explained the selection process:
"In August you'll see the first eight and a little later than that, you'll see three more and then I believe the Sunday before the Ryder Cup is the last choice," he said. "That is one of the changes the task force made that frankly will help the U.S. quite a bit."
Coverage around the globe of the Ryder Cup will rival that of the Super Bowl. Consider that the 2014 Super Bowl was broadcast in 198 countries and the game regularly attracts more than 100 million viewers. Hunt said the Ryder Cup's reach is similar.
"The coverage is throughout the entire world, well over 160 countries, hundreds of millions of households," he said. "I think it's around 230 million if I remember correctly. I think it's the most widely covered golf event there is."
Lucia should stay at U
After reading last week's City Pages article that was critical of Gophers men's hockey coach Don Lucia, I think that some hockey fans think they know more about their sport than anybody who is involved with baseball, basketball, football and every other minor sport in America. They know all the answers.
Lou Nanne probably knows more about hockey and is a better judge of hockey coaches than certainly the person who wrote that City Pages story, or anyone else in the state of Minnesota for that matter.
Before he died, John Mariucci was Mr. Hockey in this state and then Nanne became a great replacement. And Nanne is a believer in Lucia and not campaigning to see him fired.
There are five Division I hockey programs in Minnesota, which makes it more difficult for Lucia to recruit. The University of North Dakota also is competition in recruiting top players.
In addition, Lucia probably has had more players who left school early to play in the NHL than any other program in the country.
The Gophers won the first two Big Ten Conference regular-season hockey titles and are in line for a third this season.
As recently as two years ago, they were runner-up for the Frozen Four title. Lucia is 406-209-68 in his 17-year career at Minnesota, and his teams have won the past four regular-season conference championships in the WCHA and Big Ten.
The word is that former athletic director Norwood Teague was listening to some hockey geniuses who wanted to fire Lucia, but administrators and boosters with better judgment didn't allow that to happen.
I'm not a hockey expert, but I know Lucia is as good a coach as there is among the five college hockey programs in the state, and also the Big Ten.
• The Gophers baseball team starts indoor practice in the Gibson-Nagurski building Jan. 29. The Gophers open the season Feb. 19 at a tournament with Utah, Oregon State and Utah Valley in Surprise, Ariz., the Kansas City Royals' spring training site.
• Interim coach Sam Mitchell talking about the Timberwolves' future: "We're going to get there, I'm very confident in the next year or two we're going to be where we want to be, especially the coaches. But it's just a process and it takes time and there is no way to speed up that process. They have to get out there and learn how to play games. Sometimes part of winning is learning how to overcome adversity when you lose."
• According to Fox Sports, there's a good chance that former Vikings defensive end Kenechi Udeze will be named the Southern California defensive line coach in the near future. Udeze, who graduated from USC, worked as a defensive line coach for Pete Carroll with the Seahawks in 2012.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org