GOLF - Singing in the rain!.jpg

GOLF – Singing in the rain!


Prior to the first ball being hit at the K Club just outside Dublin, 10-times American National Sports Writer of the Year, Rick Reilly, said: “They have all the intimidation power of the Liechtenstein navy. It’s the single worst squad we have ever taken to a Ryder Cup.” Former Open champion and leading US commentator Johnny Miller chimed in, stating this to be his country’s weakest team in the 79-year history of the tournament. Neither was far off the mark.

The 50,000 ever-present spectators made light of the driving rain that almost incessantly lashed the Emerald Isle throughout the three days of competition as Europe romped to an unprecedented third consecutive victory, posting a record-equalling nine-point winning margin in the process.

The writing was on the wall from day one as Tiger Woods drove his tee-shot for the opening fourballs straight into the River Liffey, troubling the trees rather than the fairways thereafter. Although the world number one was able to rely on partner Jim Furyk to carry the partnership to a one-shot success, the US was already trailing by lunch. The subsequent foursomes did not improve matters, Europe leading 5-3 by the time Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia had seen off the same top US pairing.

By Saturday evening the advantage had doubled. José Maria Olazabal matched Ian Woosnam’s all-time Ryder Cup record of 10.5 points in fourballs after he and fellow Spaniard Garcia won three and two against Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco, while Paul Casey brought the house down with only the fifth ever hole-in-one at the 14th. Ahead 10-6, the Europeans only needed four points from Sunday’s 12 singles matches to retain the coveted trophy. Donald achieved that target against Chad Campell as early as the sixth head-to-head, Henrik Stenson completing outright victory against Vaughn Taylor in the very next. The rest turned into a procession as the scoreboard displayed the final 18.5 – 9.5 standing.

In many ways, the emotion and elation to be seen on the face of the recently bereaved Darren Clarke, his inspired and sometimes brilliant play, fired up the crowds, their roars reaching a crescendo every time the likable Irishman stepped up to the tee. Certainly the lacklustre and often wayward American showing never produced such enthusiasm, nor did the taciturn if shrewd Woosnam leadership. The more affable Nick Faldo will be at the European helm at Valhalla, Kentucky in two years time. In all likelihood, the leader on the greens, Colin Montgomerie, as well as most of the rest of the team will still be present.

But what of the Americans? A lack of team spirit, epitomised by the normally incomparable Tiger Woods, coupled with a strange selection policy elevating journeymen to national prominence, may result in a drastic decline in interest for the event on the other side of the Atlantic. The US likes winners, and does not compete in sports it cannot dominate. For the sake of golf’s premier team tournament it can only be hoped that 2008 will rekindle the competitive element, America arriving at Celtic Manor in Wales for the 2010 edition in possession of the prized statue.