If somebody had produced a script for a movie about a game of golf that played out the way the final day of the Ryder Cup did at Medinah today, they’d have been told to “stick it where the sun doesn’t shine, pal- no-one will believe that load of fiction!!!” I suspect most people would probably have been pretty close to believing something more in line with this, and this wouldn’t be restricted to American predictions- most Europeans would have believed it too, irrespective of how much they wished differently.
On the first couple of days the Americans played very well and deserved their 8-4 lead. They generally drove better, chipped better and putted better. There were some very creditable performances by the Europeans but the score DID reflect how the two teams had performed.
I wasn’t impressed with how some of the American players deported themselves but I have never been a fan of the crazy fist-pumping, high-fiving and screaming “c’mons” and “aw-rights” to wind up the crowd, but in the context of the competition they had every right to be enthusiastic in celebration of their performance. I did recall the disgraceful display by one of the youngsters a few years ago and it seemed clear that the word had gone out to just temper things just a bit but one or two of the rookies did get a bit carried away by the moment but I have to allow them a bit of leeway given how well they were doing.
Then came Sunday!!! There was no way I was getting up at the ungodly hour that the live telecast started, particularly as I also doubted that being down 6-10 the Euros could find at least 8 of the remaining 12 singles points/matches to ensure they retained the cup (by drawing) let alone getting up to secure victory outright, so I set it to record and started to watch at the much more sensible hour of seven-ish.
The feel from the Americans looked to be in keeping with what their expectations were but I thought I detected a bit of grit in the manner of the Euro boys- nothing specific but…
To say that the excitement built would be an understatement, and it continued to build, And build and build and build. The Americans touch on the greens seemed to have left them somewhat, and the European players appeared to have developed a new confidence. Early successes bred successes and there were a couple of match-ups that became a wee bit one-sided against pre-match predictions (and I don’t mean the idiot on ESPN!) The scoreboard showed the inevitable ebb and flow of close matches and a couple of games that seemed to establish fairly early one player’s dominance over the other. There was lots of blue (Europe) and some red (America) and some white (matches all square) then there was lots of red and some blue and some white, then there was…well you get the idea. As the matches played out the excitement grew, and grew. Matches finished and it continued to look better and better for the Europeans and the announcers got a spring in their step (or a chirp in their voices?)
Then when it came down to the last four or five matches on the course and those seeming pretty fluid with no clear favourites it was really edge of the seat stuff. This was drama that no sensible director would dream of trying to build a story from.
One of the most tangible indicators of how things were going was the volume of the 30,000 voices that lined the fairways and greens. The crowds who had been so confident and typically American with their chanting and cheering had gone almost eerily quiet. Of course there were shout outs, and half-hearted cheers on occasions when a drive hit the cut stuff or a putt dropped, but these sounded definitely hopeful rather than celebratory.
When the scores became tied at 13 all and then Europe’s Martin Kaymer holed a clutch putt to secure the win over veteran Steve Stricker the Europeans knew that had retained the cup. It was FANTASTIC! Then there was just one match on the course and amazingly Tiger Woods missed a very make-able putt on the last then conceded the match to the young Italian, Molinari. The ecstasy was complete- not only had they retained the trophy, they had WON it!!
For all of those who belittle the game of golf as a ‘good walk spoiled’ as Mark Twain would have it, or as simply and aimlessly ‘hitting a little white ball with silly sticks’, to follow this particular competition from go to whoa would surely change some opinions. Of course it is even more notable given all who participate (and most of them are multi-millionaire success stories) do so for nothing more than the pride of representing their nation or nations.
The one sour note of the weekend was the repeatedly boorish and ill-mannered behaviour of a segment of the American crowd (and they ALWAYS seem to be able to get close to ground microphones!!) I know they were on the American side because the unsporting and loutish outbursts and cheering of poor shots were never directed at American players. It’s bad enough to have these clowns screaming out ‘get in the hole’ as the ball leaves the tee on a par 5, (although this has now been joined by the equally idiotic ‘mashed potatoes’ or something equally puerile but to have the crowd (or at least a chunk of it) laughing at a player’s misfortune, cheering missed putts or even calling out ‘get in the water’ as a European tees off beside or over water is completely unacceptable. It is such a shame that this is a well ingrained part of American golfing crowds and it does the nation no service at all- apparently Vietnam isn’t the only place you can find ‘ugly Americans’.
I delighted, as did many others in the incident on a cross-lake par 3 when, after a yoick in the crowd screamed ‘get in the water’ as Justin Rose teed off, Phil Mickelson‘s ball fell short and went in the lake. Do not get me wrong, I had no wish for Mickelson to have that happen, and I have to say that despite not particularly liking the man I couldn’t fault his play this weekend and he was one of the most obvious ‘good sports’ in the American team, even on occasions applauding Rose’s big putts or other good shots. I know that he would have been as annoyed as I was that anybody would call out ‘get in the water’ after any player had hit a shot. I wonder whether anybody standing nearby the idiot said anything? I wish there was some way of ejecting these people.
However the bad behaviour did the American cause no favours because I suspect the collective European bottom jaw would have jutted out just a bit more every time one of their players heard it. Congratulations Captain Jose maria Olazabal and your great team- Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Paul Lawrie, Nicolas Colsaerts, Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia, Peter Hanson, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Francesco Molinari, and my ‘man of the match’, Ian Poulter. These boys have seriously dented the reputations of a good number of America’s top golfers who I am certain believed they came into this weekend with the ‘game in the bag’.
Ole, ole ole ole, indeed.