Ole, ole, ole……….oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! Europe were well and truly thumped at the Ryder Cup in Whistling Straits last weekend. Outplayed, out-performed, outclassed and out of sorts. Their resistance to the steamrolling juggernaut that turned up alongside Steve Stricker, the American captain, was paltry and the harder the Europeans tried the more elusive became the laser-like approach shots and clutch putts they required.
There has been a triumphant fanfare from the American press that this is the dawning of a new era, that this is an American side that will dominate for decades to come. Just a second – let’s not get too carried away here. All sport is cyclical and ebbing and flowing is all part and parcel of the game. And just because the Europeans were in the ebbing part of the cycle this year doesn’t mean they’ll still be ebbing come 2023 and Rome. In fact, I bet you they aren’t. There are a number of young players waiting in the wings and many more we’ve never heard of harbouring fierce ambitions to be in the team in two years’ time.
Apart from the result (for the Europeans, that is) there was plenty to enjoy about this Ryder Cup. Whistling Straits is a wonderful, scenic test of golf although I would have preferred it if the players had not had a 9-iron or wedge in their hand for quite SO many second shots into the green. I enjoyed seeing Jordan Spieth back near the top of his game and his match with Koepka on Saturday against Rahm and Garcia in the fourballs was a matchplay delight. Sergio may have been the grizzled veteran in that European combo but he was like a wee boy in his eagerness to hit the next shot. At times he wasn’t a million miles removed from that effervescent 19-year old who famously went skipping and jumping up the fairway after a stellar shot from the roots of a tree in the 1999 PGA Championship.How could you not love Shane Lowry? A great big bear of a man who made no secret of the fact that this was what he was born for. The outpouring of emotion the second after holing the winning putt on the final green of his Saturday fourball with Tyrrell Hatton will live long in the memory. We hadn’t witnessed that at Portrush in his fairytale winning of the Open a couple of years ago. The Ryder Cup inspires many players to more than they could fathom. Every American player contributed to the points tally. Dustin Johnson looks back to his best and in winning five points out of five he joins Larry Nelson and Francesco Molinari in producing a full house in what could be called the modern era. The only other player to tee it up all five times was Jon Rahm, world No 1 and undoubted on-course leader of the European side. He succumbed in the singles to Scottie Scheffler which just goes to show what a monumental task it is for any player to deal emotionally, physically and mentally with five outings.
The players say every single shot, right from the off, is like a shot when you’re in contention on the back nine of a major on Sunday. Right there that puts it more in perspective for those of us who will never know what it’s like to step into that sort of exacting arena.
I enjoyed watching the hatless (definitely not hapless) Patrick Cantlay fashion three wins and a half from his four matches, even if he did beat Shane in the singles. Cantlay came to the Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen in 2011 as the No 1 amateur in the world and great things were predicted, and expected, of him. A few years later he had the crushing and life-changing experience of witnessing his best friend and caddy being killed in a traffic accident. Dark days followed and, coupled with injury, those days turned into years. His quiet demeanour, which has often led to him being mistaken for being taciturn, has kept him largely in the background as far as the fans are concerned. This is definitely his time, however – winner of the Fed-Ex Cup and a $15 million bonus and now unbeaten in his maiden Ryder Cup. Hats off indeed, Mr Cantlay!Much as there was to enjoy there was quite a lot to abhor. Never, ever, have I heard the opposition in golf being booed when introduced on the first tee. Thankfully, that seemed to be sorted out by the Sunday but that behaviour must not be tolerated and must be stamped out once and for all. It’s not acceptable at any level and what is the point in having the digital screens flashing up messages saying abusive behaviour will lead to eviction from the course when nothing happens? Cheer like mad for your own team, yes. Greet the opposition with polite applause or even silence, yes. But we can do without the “get in the water” and “miss it” cries. It is so important the powers-that-be do not let the game descend into the gutter.
As usual, an honours degree in mental agility and memory was required to follow the leapfrogging nature of the television coverage. Sky did their valiant best to deal with the peripatetic feed from the US broadcasters who frequently missed out key shots or putts, or worse still, played the shots out of turn. Too often the commentators were hung out to dry and scrabbling to remember who was playing whom and what the score was. A few more graphics would have helped but they weren’t forthcoming from the host broadcasters and then in an instant we were off to another match. You couldn’t leave the room for a second and expect to return knowing what was going on.
Nevertheless, it’s been a feast of golf this year and huge congratulations must go to the US for winning the Walker, Curtis and Ryder Cups. Congrats, too, to a wonderful European Solheim Cup team. Like Rory, I can’t wait to do it all again!