If tickets for the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles were to be offered for sale today, they would be snapped up within minutes. The competition has secured its place at the pinnacle of golfing events after last weekend’s tumultuous climax in Chicago. One cynic put it in perspective as proving only that “our chaps are better than their chaps at thwacking a rubberized ball around some countryside that has been tidied up a bit”; for most armchair sports fans it was compelling viewing that was riveting throughout its three glorious days.
The stunning comeback by the European team is encapsulated in one match, played out as the shadows fell across the course late on the second day of the event. With the USA leading by a comfortable margin of 10-4, a minor miracle was required to give the Europeans the slightest of chances to retain the trophy. The first hitch in what had all the makings of an American victory parade came courtesy of Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, who clung on for a narrow victory and secured a precious point for their team. A miracle was still required.
The last match on the Medinah course was the partnership of Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, already two down after two holes against Jason Duffner and Zach Johnson. McIlroy’s birdie on the 13th reduced the deficit before Ian Poulter took the match by the scruff of the neck. He may not rank in the top 40 golfers in the world but, in the Ryder Cup, Poulter is peerless. As Europe stared defeat in the face, Poulter made birdie at each of the last five holes to record a victory that galvanized a comeback of epic proportions.
Bernhard Langer had missed the vital putt that sent Europe to defeat in 1991, when the USA overcame a 10-6 deficit on the final day. It seemed fitting that, twenty one years later, his fellow German Martin Kaymer overcame his own demons to sink the putt that secured the Ryder Cup.
Anyone who plays competitive golf can only stand back in awe of professionals who perform at the peak of their ability in the cauldron of the Ryder Cup. Those of us who have difficulty holding a golf club on the last tee when on track for a good score in a Caledonian Medal qualifying competition cannot begin to imagine that degree of pressure.
Those with little interest in golf will have discarded the golf notes by this point and so it may be as good place as any at which to bury a couple of clarifications from last week’s article. There was a suggestion that the Winter League would commence this coming weekend. In fact, the condition of the course is so good that the eighteen hole format will be retained for at least two more competitions. While that may be positive news, it is worth remembering that, in general, October is not a good month for handicap reduction.
More seriously, there was a scurrilous implication in last week’s article that Chris “Tex” Graham was a fair weather golfer, who would only venture onto a golf course if the sun was shining and there was no wind. Should the wind pick up, or the sun disappear momentarily behind a cloud, there was an insinuation that Chris’ trolley was programmed to escort both him and his clubs to the shelter of the clubhouse. From that refuge, Chris would be able to look out at the Cup green, which he had last visited just before the Millennium. Nothing could be further from the truth and, to prove that, Chris completed his fourth round in as many weeks last Saturday. Admittedly, there was little wind and the sun shone but, nevertheless, Chris was a man on a mission.
Having booked his place in the final of the Jackson Medal competition in the last qualifying round a week earlier, Chris emerged as the form golfer. A birdie on the Memorial helped him to a two over par total at the halfway stage. Despite double bogeys on the Dardanelles and Ranol, Chris put together enough quality golf on the inward half to record a level par round. His performance ensured that the Jackson Medal will be pinned to his chest at the annual prize-giving tomorrow (Friday) evening. That in itself should be enough temptation for members to turn up in numbers.
Those who have not qualified for medal finals tend to upstage the winners and last Saturday was no exception. Donald John Smith and Allan Macleod posted excellent rounds of nett 66 but Norrie “Onions” Macdonald chose this event to put together his best round for months. Norrie opened his account with a double bogey on the Castle and finished with back to back bogeys; the fifteen holes in between comprised eleven pars and four birdies. His gross total of 68 was the lowest of the day and his nett 65 was again the lowest of the day.
The destination of the Consolation Cup was also decided last weekend. From the thirty three teams that began the long march in April, Griddy Macleod and Kevin Macrae contested the final against Norrie “Tomsh” Macdonald and Al “Greens” Macleod. A closely fought match was eventually won on the seventeenth green by Griddy and Kevin.
The last of the matchplay competitions, the Stornoway Cup, was won by David Black in the culmination of a superb season. If he fails to turn up for the prize-giving, the awards table will still be creaking under the weight of numerous unclaimed trophies at the end of the evening.