BY KEN DOHERTY
That was some Ryder Cup tournament in Rome at the weekend, wasn’t it? Despite the fact that we were commentating on the British Open final in Cheltenham, we had televisions on following every shot. And we even had a sweep on the outcome.
For me there was only ever going to be one victor and that was Europe once I heard last week that some of the Americans weren’t bothered to make the journey on a reconnaissance to Rome’s Marco Simone Golf and Country Club a few weeks before the event.
I mean think about that… a private jet, first class wining and dining and still only nine of the 12 travelled.
Europe by contrast were a team full of players wanting to do what it took to be part and parcel of Luke Donald’s 12 apostles. You could see it from the time they began the foursomes on Friday that the European lads were up for it while the US team were just going through the motions.
Once they got that 4-0 start, there probably was no way back from the visitors though if I’m being honest, I thought for a half an hour on Sunday afternoon that they were poised to pulling off arguably the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history.
In the singles, Europe had started well and I think had the lead in maybe five or six of the first pairings. As the afternoon progressed though it began to get very red in the middle of the scoreboard with the likes of Shane Lowry three down after six or seven holes to Jordan Spieth.
I started to wonder then if there would be a huge final day collapse by the hosts but Shane among others showed great resolve and never-say-die spirit to take the lead by the 17th against the three-time major champion and ended up with the half point needed to get Europe across the Rubicon.
That his good friend Tommy Fleetwood had already won his match, though starting out behind, meant it was the Englishman’s point which ultimately sealed the victory for the home team. But it was good to know that Lowry hadn’t let the side down if we needed him.
Probably the most emotional of all the players at the event was Rory McIlroy who certainly more than made up for a paltry point at Whistling Straits two years ago by winning four out of the five on offer this time around.
His spat with Patrick Cantlay’s caddie, Joe LaCava, on the 18th the previous night which saw himself and Matt Fitzpatrick lose to three late birdies from the American was to be the fuel needed to make sure the Europeans went out thirsting for victory on Sunday and by garnering six of the 12 points on offer, they ended up easily winning on a 16.5 to 11.5 margin.
The US captain Zac Johnson was magnanimous in defeat and took the blame for not having the troops as battle ready as they should have been. In fairness to him, I think he was on a loser from the start because of the attitude shown by some US players. I bet if he had to pick his side again, there would have been more than one change in personnel.
The big challenge, which Rory referred to after victory had been achieved, now is to go to Bethpage in New York in two years’ time and bring home the coveted vessel from abroad. It is hard to believe that no US captain, no matter how good he appeared to be, has managed that feat in 30 years. This, in a competition they used to win simply by turning up in the good old days of the sixties and seventies.
So hats off to the Europeans (and that is not meant to be a jibe at the Americans for their antics in not wearing caps because they weren’t getting paid) and in particular well done to Shane and Rory. Shane got one and a half points out of three but according to sources behind the scenes was one of the driving forces inside the team room.
After the win, he thanked Luke Donald for giving him one of the wild card places on the European side but I think Luke will be happy that the Offaly man gave back a lot more to the group dynamic than even he thought possible when he selected him.
Watching the US team and the fractious look about them reminded me that Manchester United are a squad with similar ailment. After losing to Crystal Palace on Saturday – their fourth loss of the season in the Premier League, I’m really not expecting anything other than a frustrating season. Their problem is that of a rotten fish – from the head down. Until the Glazers are removed from Old Trafford, a lot of the other things beneath will still be only piecemeal in approach and attempts to match the likes of City, Liverpool and Arsenal will fail every time.
*Congrats to my old mate Mark Williams who became the second oldest winner at 48 years young on the snooker circuit by annexing the British Open in Cheltenham on Sunday evening when he defeated Mark Selby by 10-7.
Speaking of snooker, I am in the Far East this week to play Ronnie O’Sullivan among others and am looking forward to seeing how my game holds up against the best there’s ever been. Of course, he could always fail to show up!!
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