Thursday, September 25, 2014

bravo victor golf uniform

Everyone else is doing their My Favourite Ryder Cup Moments bit at the moment, so I'm going to get in on the act as well. I actually came to the Ryder Cup a bit late; while my earliest live TV golf-watching recollection is of the end of the Duel In The Sun at Turnberry in 1977 (when I was seven), I don't specifically recall watching any live Ryder Cup coverage until 1993, when the USA won 15-13 at the Belfry (their last victory on European soil, as it happens) to retain the cup they'd won back in The War On The Shore at Kiawah Island two years before. My Ryder Cup history since then goes something like this:
  • In 1995 I happened to drop into The Ship on Lower Park Row in Bristol on a Sunday evening for a pint on the way back from somewhere (probably on the way up to my flat from the railway station), only to discover that they had the golf coverage on and they were about halfway through the singles. Several hours later I staggered out and home having witnessed Europe come back to win from being behind after the doubles for the first (and, until 2012, only) time in Ryder Cup history. Nick Faldo's nerveless up-and-down from 93 yards to beat Curtis Strange was the key moment (combined with a calamitous sequence of missed putts from Strange), and Philip Walton's nervy stumble over the line a while later clinched it. This is probably my favourite Ryder Cup experience, just for the general happy unexpectedness of it all - firstly getting to see it at all, and then the result.
  • I watched the climaxes to the Ryder Cups of 1997, 1999 and 2002 at home, but I couldn't say for certain that I watched any of them strictly live; it might have been the BBC's highlights package a bit later.
  • I can certainly say that I watched the highlights package for the 2004 Ryder Cup, having done a bit of Likely Lads-style keeping my head down to avoid finding out the result. Plenty of schadenfreude as it became clear it was going to be a record-breaking rout, but it's never quite the same as a nail-biting finish.
  • 2006 saw the first of two occasions where the Ryder Cup weekend coincided with the Swanage weekend; in this case (largely by luck) we'd just got to the pub after the traditional Sunday walk when the key singles matches started finishing, so we were comfortably settled in with a pint when Henrik Stenson holed the match-winning putt. Again, as great as that was it was another rout for Europe (18.5-9.5, the same score as in 2004), so the nail-biting element was lost.
  • I honestly can't remember watching in 2008, though since Europe got their arse plated up and handed to them I could just have blotted the experience out. I expect it's more than likely I saw at least some of it.
  • In 2010 the Ryder Cup took place at Celtic Manor, a mere mile-and-a-half from our house. Anticipating traffic gridlock and general chaos we decided to go on holiday to Turkey for the week, returning on the Monday, the day after it finished. Inevitably this plan was scuppered by the Welsh weather as the match had to be concluded on the Monday. Swings and roundabouts, though, as we had some hours to kill between checking out of the hotel and getting the coach to the airport and took ourselves plus bags off to the local sports bar, which just happened to be showing the golf. Not only that, but the nail-biting finish to Graeme McDowell's match with Hunter Mahan that delivered the cup back to Europe took place with a few minutes to spare before we had to shoot off and catch the coach. 
  • In 2012 the match once again coincided with the Swanage weekend; this time we were back at the campsite having a barbecue when the climactic Sunday action happened, so we had to keep up with events via Andy's smartphone and a rather intermittent mobile signal. The interminable waits for the BBC Sports page to refresh added an element of suspense of their own.
So what to expect from 2014? Well, I'll be at work on the Friday and at a wedding on the Saturday, but you can rest assured I've cleared out my V+ box in anticipation of recording much of the coverage for later watching. I fully intend to dedicate a big chunk of Sunday to watching the singles, though.

And who'll win? Well, home advantage counts for a lot - only six of the seventeen matches since 1979 have resulted in "away wins", four for Europe and two for USA: USA in 1981, Europe in 1987, USA in 1993 and Europe in 1995, 2004 and 2012. Both teams look very strong, though I suppose there is a question mark over the European wildcards - Westwood and Poulter have both been picked on past Ryder Cup form rather than on having done anything much this year. As for the rookies, Jamie Donaldson is a very solid player these days, Stephen Gallacher is a reserved type who needs to show that he's not intimidated by the raucous atmosphere, and Victor Dubuisson is a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a garlic baguette.

There is the Tiger Woods factor, though - the last time he failed to make the team was in 2008 when he was recovering from knee surgery, whereupon a young USA team featuring six rookies won handsomely. The idea that the Ryder Cup format suits neither him nor his team-mates (when he's on the team) is probably an over-simplification, but there seems to be something in it.

A neutral would probably say that another nail-biting finish resulting in a narrow victory for the USA would be the best thing for the long-term health of the competition. To that I'd say: you're probably right, but can we leave that till next time, please?

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