Wow, wow, wow! What a week, what a Ryder Cup! Awash with emotion, fatigue, relief and joy, Europe annihilated, yes, annihilated the touted best-ever American Ryder Cup team to visit this continent. And Patricia and I can beat our chests (though not quite as hard as Ian Poulter) and say proudly, “We were there!”
Having enjoyed a busy summer covering all the majors and going back and forward to America I have to confess the Ryder Cup sort of crept up on me and, knowing I was having a work-free tournament, I hadn’t really paid that much attention to the build-up – until Thomas Bjorn announced his picks. Then I sat up and paid attention. I walked crossly into the house and announced to my husband that, “Thomas Bjorn has just lost us the Ryder Cup. Sergio can’t hit a barn door, Henrik has carried a long-term elbow injury and Casey and Poulter played well at the start of the year but have done nothing since. How about picking players who are actually playing well? Plus they’re all getting on a bit!”
It was all crystal clear, wasn’t it? We were going to get whopped. Ah well, at least we’d have a pleasant few days in Paris with no anxious nail-biting, because, well, it wasn’t going to be close, was it? And in the end, it wasn’t! Thomas’s picks delivered a whopping 9.5 points and US captain Jim Furyk’s a mere 2 points, both courtesy of his final pick, the multi-talented Tony Finau. Shows you what I know!
Europe combined to make the perfect team, the whole being so so much more than the sum of the individual parts. That’s the bit the Americans don’t quite get. At the top level in team golf nowadays you cannot afford to have any of the undercurrents of blame and discontent rumbling through the team. The dissolution of the hitherto successful partnership of Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth was obviously not handled as well as it could have been by Furyk because Reed was still aggrieved by it at the end of the week. And what on earth was Reed’s wife thinking of – getting involved in twitter conversations re the split? Heaven forbid that that would ever happen on a European side.
The sights and sounds of a Ryder Cup are extraordinary. We see players in their work place in a way we never normally see them. Quiet, understated, unflappable folk like Francesco Molinari turn into magnums of shaken champagne erupting into unconfined joy at the acquisition of another precious point. When he gets time to look back at the TV pictures he’ll wonder was that really him? How fitting that the honour of clinching the Cup and becoming the first European player to win five points out of five should fall to Molinari. His fellow Italians must be rubbing their hands in delighted expectation of hosting the next home match in 2022.
It’s not just the players that are different, the crowds are too. It’s not uncommon to see all manner of fancy dress and always something to bring a smile to your face.
Finally, the behaviour of these crowds is also different and, to be honest, it is something I struggled with a little bit. At one point when an American shot found water to loud European cheers, Patricia turned to me and said, “Dad wouldn’t like that.” And no, he most certainly wouldn’t. We were definitely brought up not to celebrate an opponent’s mistake or misfortune and to be respectful and fair at all times. So, why was I enjoying it so much and, whisper it quietly, even doing my own share of cheering?
Patricia felt it was because it was akin to cheering when your opposing footie team missed a penalty. It is in a way, but I don’t like any comparison to football. Claude Harmon summed it up perfectly for me. The Ryder Cup is no longer simply a great golf event, it is one of the world’s greatest sporting events and as such, there are many many sports fans present who are not necessarily golfers. The crowd was so involved in the matches and so partisan and that all contributed to a stunning atmosphere and one that every player on each side relished. Not once did I hear an unkind remark aimed at any of the opposing players (unlike two years ago in Hazeltine), and not once was there anything but respectful silence when the Americans were playing.
Two years ago there was an unpalatable edge to a section of the crowd’s behaviour because alcohol was on sale from 7am when the gates opened. This small but vocal number of boozed-up fans were a disgrace and an embarrassment to our gracious hosts. There was absolutely none of that in Paris. So, sorry Dad, I am OK with the cheering of the US water-bound shots and their missed putts. The involvement of the fans is part of the whole experience of the current-day Ryder Cup as long as it is good natured and no American player had any criticism to make. When Patrick Reed holed the winning putt in his singles match he turned to the crowd and held his finger to his lips, returning the shushing gestures he had received from them as he walked up onto the green. He then dropped his club on the ground and applauded the galleries and the part they had played in supporting their team. It was a nice moment.
So, well done Thomas Bjorn and the European team. The captain’s picks were pivotal. Sure, I knew all along we’d win!!