The build-up to the Ryder Cup is gathering momentum. Gleneagles, in Scotland, is the venue for the bi-annual event which pits Europe’s best golfers against America’s. It runs from Friday week to the following Sunday, and while the tail-end of the second day’s play might clash with the All-Ireland hurling final replay, there’ll still be lots in this country who’ll want to watch the golf, just as there’s likely to be many in Sky-land, smitten by the enthralling drawn game, who won’t want to miss any of the hurling.
While a number of Irishmen have been part of European management team’s in the past, this is the first time for someone from this country to be awarded the captaincy. History-maker Paul McGinley may have been shaded by Padraig Harrington when the Dubs’ careers were at their height, but he won his share of tournaments and was a good team player, contributing generously to Ireland and Europe wins.
He scored one particularly famous win on Ryder Cup duty, earning himself a place alongside Christy O’Connor junior, Philip Walton and Graeme McDowell, other Irishmen who held their nerve when the competition was there to be won.
McGinley, who has impressed as a TV pundit during some of the big American competitions, has named Harrington as one of his vice-captains. Des Smyth, one of two Louthmen to have played Ryder Cup, is another. (Do you know the name of the second Louthman? Answer at the end of this piece.)
His wild card choice of Stephen Gallacher, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood met with little criticism, and taking advice from Harrington, Smyth and the other vice-captains, Sam Torrance, Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez, is unlikely to do much wrong in lining out the team.
Rory McIlroy and McDowell will be flying the flag for Ireland out on the course, and just exactly how important he views the competition, McIlroy said on radio last week that winning it would mean more to him than the $10 million – yes, ten million very big bucks – on offer in the FedEx Cup finale last weekend. In saying that, the three-time Major winner was echoing the sentiments of America’s Bubba Watson.
Golf is at the best of times a fairly sedate kind of game, but competitions such as the Ryder Cup inflame passions. Think back to Brookline in 1999, when the Yanks, players as well as supporters, lost the run of themselves as Justin Leonard’s crucial tie with Olazabal drew to a close. Maybe there’ll be a bit of that this time around.
The other Louth man to play Ryder Cup? Omeath’s Hugh Boyle, who was involved in the 1967 renewal, playing with what was then known as the Britain & Ireland team.