"I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth." (Karl Popper)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ryder Cup: Three in a row

What a victory! If a streaker and the good grace of Paul McGinley (he conceded a putt of 30 feet on the last) had not intervened, this could have been the biggest winning margin in the competition's 79 year history. In the event, Team Europe won by 18.5 points to 9.5. This equals the record the (largely similarly composed) European team set two years ago across the Atlantic at Oakland Hills. It was a pity the event wasn't on terrestrial television, but the tv highlights at night on RTE and BBC, the excellent radio coverage on RTE Radio 1 and BBC Radio Five Live and the closeness of a friendly pub with a big screen more than made up for that. I always find golf lends itself to radio, and even more so discussion and cheering in the small pub setting. The inanities of Sky's commentary can be ignored, or forgotten.

Coming into the match, I was a little worried by all the talking up of Europe's chances. We were favourites, we were going in with a much more experienced, more together side. I was a little concerned that a motivated, not to say individually talented, U.S. team could upset the apple cart. After all, Woods, Mickelson and Furyk are higher in the world rankings than any of the Europeans. I need not have worried. Sergio Garcia, Colin Montgomerie, Paul Casey, and the wildcards Lee Westwood and (the courageous and brilliant) Darren Clarke were all towers of strength, and beacons of skill. The Americans, used to target golf, and unused (and in the case of a few of them, including, it would seem, Tiger Woods, disinclined) to team golf, had no answers. That is not to say they played all that badly. Stewart Cink, JJ Henry, Zach Johnson and a few others played well, at least in parts. But as pairs over Friday and Saturday they consistently came up short. Europe won each of the first four sessions by 2.5 to 1.5 They then went into Sunday leading 10-6 and proceeded to sweep all (bar Cink, Woods and Verplank) before them. The strength went right down through the European side. Howell, Stenson, Olazabal, McGinley, to name but a few, stood tall in what a cricket team would call the middle order and prevented any hint of final day American revival on the scale required, namely the record turnaround achieved at Brookline in 1999.

One commentator said the atmosphere was like a soccer or rugby. The chants of "Europe! clap-clap-clap Europe!" were something I rarely recall hearing on a golf course. Not like today. But the crowd was never bawdy or heckling. The American players were received with courtesy, and fairly applauded when they played well. Credit was given where credit was due. There was the occasional cheer when an American putt was missed, but that is excusable.

We should be proud. The European team played superbly, and the Irish hosts did a great job too. Roll on 2008. And bring it back here soon!


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