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The 2010 Ryder Cup: Sporting Drama at it’s Finest… Great News for the Game of Golf

October 5, 2010

Golf… a traditionalist’s sport: stuffy clubhouses, stiff rules, isolated players competing for pay cheques whilst the rest of us try to scrape together enough pennies to buy a ticket or purchase a Sky subscription just to enable us watch, admire, and politely applaud our golfing deities. It is their job after all… so excuse any lack of emotion.

But not when it comes to The Ryder Cup. No prize money for these guys here; just pride, passion, and oodles of emotion. And boy did we get some at Celtic Manor in Wales this year. What a contest we were treated to!…

And it got off to such an inauspicious start, didn’t it? All that atrocious weather and resultant delayed play – nothing worse than empty fairways for the sodden paying masses. For the folk dotted around the course – time to find stiff brew and a tree to shelter under. For those at home, Sky Sports 76 and badger racing from Lithuania awaited.

With time lost to the weather, sessions were merged over the coming days; a stroke of genius. It meant that all twelve players from both sides were out on the course at once instead of the normal eight (with four ‘rested’). Now that’s great for the public…

When the golf eventually got going, the players were in for quite some atmosphere. Whooping and hollering, cries of ‘Eur-ope, Eur-ope’ from the adorning masses; it was reminiscent of terrace chants at any football ground across the country. Not a sight (or sound) for the feint-hearted golfing traditionalist, but by George it was entertaining.

The US took an early lead, before a storming final session for Europe on Sunday – where they claimed 5.5 out of the 6 points on offer – took them from a 6-4 deficit to an overnight lead at 9.5-6.5. Just the singles to follow on the Monday then… the first time The Ryder Cup had gone to an extra day, incidentally. It just added to the spectacle.

The opening five singles encounters rendered balanced results… two wins and a halve each, including a 2&1 loss for new World #2 Lee Westwood, and a nervy 1up win by Luke Donald. Europe 12, USA 9.

Miguel Ángel Jiménez quickly completed a surprisingly one-sided 4&3 victory over Bubba Watson. Europe were 13-9 up and looking good to get to their target of 14.5 points, the amount needed to regain The Ryder Cup. Then the drama kicked in.

Ross Fisher capitulated to Jeff Overton, going down 3&2 having been up what seemed like a split second earlier (Europe 13, USA 10). Tiger Woods earned another point for the States to make it 13-11 when he completed a comfortable 4&3 victory over Francesco Molinari. In the process, Woods claimed a memorable eagle from the fairway on the 12th, before Phil Mickleson sent Peter Hanson packing 4&2 to reduce American arrears further to just 13-12 overall.

Padraig Harrington, five down with five to play, dangled the carrot of hope – bringing it back to three down with three to play against America’s Zach Johnson. Whilst Harrington rallied, Edoardo Molinari floundered. Three up with three to play against twenty-one year old Ryder Cup debutant Rickie Fowler… Molinari suddenly found himself without an answer as Fowler flourished up the final few holes of the back nine. Two up with two to play quickly became just one up with one to play…

Johnson closed out against Harrington (3&2) to bring the match level at 13-a-piece. Could Molinari hold on up the 18th to give last-man-out Graeme McDowell some vital breathing space? Could Fowler claim a remarkable third hole in a row? You bet. The Californian kid nailed his 15ft putt to halve the tie; an astonishing comeback from the youngster. 13.5 played 13.5… real drama. The USA were just half a point from retaining the trophy.

And so it all came down to the last match on course – McDowell v Hunter Mahan. A wise selection from Captain Colin to send the 2010 US Open Winner out last… or so we thought. The Northern Irishman had been 3up, and then 2up. All of a sudden, he was just 1up with three to play. Squeaky bum time for all folk European…

On the 16th, an impeccable birdie from McDowell left him two up with two to play. On to the par 3, 17th hole; the world and his wife (except Tiger’s, obviously) gathered around the green. McDowell just about found the fringes of the putting surface; Mahan hit his tee shot a club short. Pressure on the American told… his follow-up chip failed to make the green. McDowell then chipped to within six feet, and when Mahan couldn’t hold his putt, he conceded to McDowell. Europe 14.5, USA 13.5… an epic European victory.

It had gone down to the very last match – sporting drama at its finest. There were wild celebrations from fans, families and players alike. A green invasion, well I never! A ‘very proud moment for all of Europe,’ as a grinning Monty later said. The bubbly flowed as twenty-one year old prodigy Rory McIlroy declared: ‘it’s great to bring the Ryder Cup back to Europe. It has been the best week of my life; this is the best event in golf by far’.

Delight in victory; despair in defeat. Hunter Mahan confirmed that this was no ordinary golfing contest as he struggled to beat back the tears in the post-match Q&A session with the press. Disappointment was etched firmly into his and his team-mates’ faces.

I suppose this brings me on to the crux of this post. Yes, Europe beat America, and as a European I am naturally delighted. But the real winners today were the public and golf as a whole. The golfing public ‘won’ because they aren’t normally treated to such lavish expressionism and passion from their idols… and what a contest it made! And golf was a winner in the context of the largely Tiger Woods-induced negative PR that it has had to put up with lately.

Putting golf in the news for all the right reasons might just get a few more folk dusting off their drivers and taking their kids to their local course or range for the first time, thereby helping out all those smaller golf clubs around the UK that have been struggling their way through the recession and it’s slow recovery. So for that and a truly entertaining sporting contest, The Ryder Cup… I thank you!

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