In due course you’ll find that there’s a bit of a cycling theme to this week’s blog, even though the Ryder Cup captains have been making their picks – and some uncomfortable phone calls.
I texted a friend who’s recovering from a double hip operation – never a woman to do anything by halves – and said I didn’t think I’d have picked Phil but she was quite happy because she thinks he’ll be useless. Never a woman to be short of an opinion. My fear is that the sainted Sergio and Henrik will be just as useless but I’m not going to criticise Thomas Bjorn or Jim Furyk yet. The clue is in the name: captain’s picks. Not mine, not yours, his. And next year, when the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles rolls round, it’ll be hers.
As a captain, all I’d be wanting is for all 12 of my players to be playing well and putting the lights out on the days of the competition. That would do me. If we weren’t hoisting the trophy at the end, I’d be playing the gracious loser and coming to terms with the dubious but enduring honour of being part of one of the greatest matches of all time, to be replayed for ever and a day during rain delays; a lifetime of wondering if something had got lost in translation: putting the lights out means holing every putt, it is not a Sun-like reference to the possibility of Neil Kinnock becoming prime minister. Older readers (is there any other sort!) may remember the pre-election headline: Last Out Switch Off The Lights – or some such brilliantly effective scaremongering crack.
Anyway, as an old friend is fond of saying, golf is played on grass and not on paper, so I’m not panicking yet at our (that’s Europe) relative inexperience and maybe Sergio will come to Paris revived, refreshed and winning points. I’m not too worried about the in-form DeChambeau because he’ll probably take so long over his pre-shot calculations and his post-shot post mortems that he’ll be lapped and be lucky to complete a match. I admit I think he’s terrific but he’d drive you batty. The other day he hit a shot that didn’t work out as planned (meticulously) and the look of astonishment and incomprehension on his face was comical. Then, still standing stock still with shock, he whipped out his charts and went through the old “recalculating, recalculating” schtick. In your own time, Bryson.
Actually, that brought to mind my time last Sunday, when I completed the St Giles Bike Ride in a very undistinguished 3 hours 18 minutes 15 seconds. That equated to 7 minutes 20 seconds a mile. Blimey, I thought, I could nearly have walked it that fast. You could choose to do the 75-mile route, the 40-miler or, as I did, the 26-mile stroll. Apparently, one intrepid soul (or show-off who should have been in the Tour of Britain or Espana) did all three. I didn’t dare ask for his (or her) time. Anyway, we had two official pit stops and one unofficial – at the Green Man in Clifton Campville, which was just opening up as we puffed by. Being the team from the world-renowned Horse and Jockey in Sandford Street in Lichfield (it’s my local, so they took pity on me and roped me in), we had to stop and exchange fraternal greetings and aid the survival of a village hostelry that dates from the 18th century.
It’s the taking part that counts, not the time. Isn’t that right, Bryson?
St Giles Hospice in Whittington was where Dai was cared for in the days before he died, so it’s a cause dear to my heart and it costs about £9 million a year to keep it up and running. Actually, I did about 32 miles because I cycled to the start and then, much more painfully, even thought most of it is downhill, back home. Cyclists wear those padded shorts for a very good reason and after my marathon I read about a woman who’d worn three pairs (at once) so that she could cope with London to Paris. Good luck to Brian and his SSAFA boys (see Maureen’s post). My admiration knows no bounds – literally.
Now, I’m not one to boast – not least because as my friends and family point out I have very little to boast about – but the morning after my cycling exertions I went to the gym, then played golf with my brother-in-law at Handsworth. Paul, Dai’s brother, plays off 26 (or he did but I’m hoping the match and handicap chair will hear of this), so I graciously gave him some shots and, apart from the 1st, not knowing how they are with such things at Handsworth, I played from the same tees. At the 1st, playing from the reds, I hit two remarkably decent shots and holed a curly old putt of about 35 feet for a birdie three. My opponent had a triple bogey seven, as befits a 26-handicapper.
I then moved back to join Paul on the yellow tees and, apart from three-putting too often, played quite nicely, pretty close to my handicap of 13. I lost 5 and 4. My opponent, after his encouragingly rocky start, barely put a shot wrong and played to 18. “That’s my best score round here,” he said. “Wonderful,” I grimaced. “Well done, well played.”
Culrath, the house I was in at school, had the motto: “Modest in victory, cheerful in defeat” and we mostly had to be cheerful. Let’s hope that after the Ryder Cup in Paris later this month, Thomas Bjorn, Europe’s captain, can be a grumpy, grouchy, gold-trophy-wielding Dane.