Figures lie. They really do. The final score at this year’s Ryder Cup was 16.5 points to 11.5 points in Europe’s favour, but that gives no indication whatsoever of the nerve-jangling, anxiety-ridden couple of hours the yellow and blue fans endured on a hot, dusty afternoon last Sunday as they desperately tried to work out who would deliver the final points that would get them over the line.
The sister and I had decided earlier that day that, starting with a five-point advantage, we would settle for sharing the singles six points apiece. That, we felt, would assure us of a nice relaxing afternoon and when future generations look at the 2023 result they will probably think that that is exactly what we had. How wrong they’d be!
All started off calmly with enough blue on the board early on to lull us into a feeling of false security. We failed to notice the American storm clouds gathering until we were suddenly assaulted by all those things we know American Ryder Cup teams can produce – holed chips, birdies galore, a change in body language and putts that had scorned the cup over the first two days were now going below ground like rabbits down a burrow. This was getting serious.
The US cheers were assaulting us from seemingly every corner of the golf course and nervous scanning of the multiple screens around the place became everyone’s hobby until we were truly left wondering could we dredge up that final half point that was required. This state of angst remained until, in match 11, Tommy Fleetwood got himself dormie after driving the 16th and making birdie and Shane Lowry triumphantly mounted the 18th tee one to the good.And suddenly it was over……….. with the final, wonderful exclamation point of a singles win in the anchor match for Bob MacIntyre against US Open champ Wyndham Clark. The singles had, indeed, been shared and the five-point gap maintained and Zach Johnson has now returned home to a wall of criticism and the obligatory post mortem for a losing captain.
As a European, it tends to baffle me the way the Americans are always seeking to “fix” something in the Ryder Cup and to “find the secret” of winning, seemingly so ably tapped into by their opposition. The formation of task forces and endless analysis resulted in their dismemberment of the Europeans at Whistling Straits two years ago and they thought they had it cracked. Forecasts of US domination for at least the next decade were bandied about and yet a mere two years later the red, white and blue tails are between the legs once again.
Isn’t that what sport is, though? There is no magic formula aside from meticulous preparation and the dedication of players for most of their lives. Then, once on the field of play, all you can do is your best. If we started the Ryder Cup again today and put the exact same players out against each other in the exact same order at the exact same times do you think the result would be Europe 16.5 America 11.5 points? I sincerely doubt it.
Europe might not even win. How often does Jon Rahm finish eagle, birdie, eagle? How often does Europe come to the final hole one down in three consecutive matches and square all three encounters? How often do American putts tiptoe past the hole for two entire days?
That’s sport in all its glorious unpredictability no matter how much you try to control everything. So, no need to give Zach Johnson a roasting and untold criticism. Odds on we’ll be on the receiving end in Bethpage Black.
Having attended numerous contests in a working capacity, the sister and I have chosen to attend these last two home encounters without the responsibility of deadlines and research hanging round our necks. So, gone for us are the accredited lines that whizz you past the general paying public and gone, also, is the transport to TV compounds and media centres where food and drink are pretty much on tap all day every day. Five years ago this blog was very critical of a great deal of the organisation in Paris for the 2018 match, so it is only right and fair to acknowledge and congratulate folk on a job well done.
We are struggling NOT to give the transport arrangements ten out of ten. I suppose you could, perhaps, dock half a point for the shuttle bus drop-off being a mile from the security gates but that’s about it. All ran like clockwork – even on the final day when we left the course at the same time as tens of thousands of others. There wasn’t so much as a pause to get on a shuttle, nor a pause to set foot on a train on the metro. The police were on hand on the metro platforms ushering folk on to one train and then calling the next train up. There was no scary build-up or press of humanity struggling to keep their feet. Calm, ordered, swift and, yes, pleasant! An outstanding job.
As usual, there were scandalous prices for food and drink on the course – twenty euros for a bowl of pasta is a bit steep and 4 euros 50 for undrinkable coffee is not good. We found a lovely coffee stop near our digs (only a fifteen-minute walk from the Colosseum) for a third of the price. Augusta National is the only place that comes to mind where the fans aren’t royally ripped off.
On a personal note, I was disappointed that for the first time there was no dedicated area for PGA members and no PGA presence. It’s a worrying development and hopefully it’ll only be a one-off.
All in all, it was a great week with lots of friendly American supporters, good golf, high tension drama and, for us, the sweetness of success. Nothing was missing.
Ian who? Sergio who? Lee who? Henrik who?
No, nothing was missing.