Padraig Harrington has no doubt had a few good nights’ sleep since he announced his three picks for this year’s Ryder Cup last Sunday. One of his problems was that he didn’t know the full complement of his automatic qualifiers until around three hours before his full team announcement deadline. I suppose, though, that his whole life in competitive golf has been all about staying in the present and dealing with whatever comes at him.
It has been an open secret for a while that Sergio and Ian Poulter were odds-on to get the nod, so in the end it really came down to a straightforward choice between Shane Lowry and Justin Rose for that last spot. That phone call to Rose, one of the nicest guys in the game, has surely been Padraig’s most difficult task to date.I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Justin for quite a long time and he’s always been generous and thoughtful in his interviews. I was at the Players’ Championship in 2008 when he and Mark Fulcher, the blog’s favourite caddy, teamed up for the first time. Mark was really excited at the prospect of caddying for Justin and I blush now as I recall telling him not to stuff it up!
They had an inauspicious beginning, missing the cut that week but after that they motored along the highway to multiple successes, most precious among them the 2013 US Open and, of course, Olympic gold in Rio in 2016. Sprinkled in amongst that lot were numerous Ryder Cup highs, most memorably for me the time they took down Phil Mickelson in the singles at Medinah. Ah, memories, memories. And many congrats to Fooch on his win at Wentworth with Billy Horschel. Brilliant.
And now Shane has a chance to add to the memories he’s accruing to tell the kids and grandkids. After his historic and spine-chillingly glorious win in the Open at Portrush I think many would have struggled to imagine an achievement that would come close to that wonderful July day in 2019. However, remarkably, the following was his first tweet last Sunday after Padraig Harrington called him into “the Principal’s office” to deliver his decision.And right there, perhaps, you have the answer to that extra “je ne sais quoi” the Europeans have over their opposition. The answer as to why the Europeans frequently add up to so much more than the sum of their parts while the Americans just don’t. Where does it come from? I’m not sure, but it certainly abounds on this side of the Atlantic, arguably having started with the magic that Seve brought to the European melting pot. There have been numerous players who have represented Europe who have come alive and achieved far in excess of what they could produce on an individual stage. But here’s Shane, a recent major winner – and THIS is the proudest moment of his career. Inspiring indeed.
Slightly less inspiring at the moment is my own golf. Tee to green is absolutely fine – quite satisfying in fact, but I haven’t yet worked my way out of the maze of yipping misery on the greens. It rather reminds me of the terrors of the ghost train ride at Barry’s Amusements in Portrush where we would be taken as children for a treat. The ghost train would rattle you along rails in total darkness until some spooky, screaming banshee would emerge out of the darkness right in front of you. At other times, you would feel the icy touch of something just by your ear. It was horribly unpleasant and absolutely wonderful when you finally emerged into daylight and the welcoming arms of your parents. I sincerely hope putting daylight isn’t too far away. Hmm, perhaps it’s time to source a long putter for these emergency time frames as I seem to have given my last one away. I console myself with the knowledge that nothing in golf is permanent.Over the last couple of years I have become quite an experienced armchair golf watcher – something I had never been before in my life because I was privileged to be working at all the big events. The last event I was present at in the States was the US Open at Pebble Beach in 2019. Gary Woodland triumphed there, just pipping Brooks Koepka with whom I walked all four rounds in my role as an on-course commentator for SiriusXM radio. Obviously 2020 was wiped out, as was the start of 2021.
I lived on in hope that things would improve in time for Whistling Straits and the Ryder Cup this month but was forced to acknowledge this week that a trip over there wouldn’t be happening for me. The UK is still on the USA’s red list so no access to the States is available for me just yet. Oh dear, oh dear – that means another watching golf-fest for the sister and me; it means nul steps on the Step App; it means hubby is on catering duty; and it means we will all be roaring Padraig and his merry band of men on from the bottom of our hearts.
Can’t wait. Not actually too shabby an alternative to being there!