Smiting Drives - A euphoric triumph for Monty, and for golf
05 Oct 2010 - 09:39:17
Hyperbole is a precarious tightrope when you write about sport, but yesterday's euphoric crescendo to the 2010 Ryder Cup deserves every plaudit you'll read in these coming days...and then some.
This was sporting theatre to rival anything you've seen. After four days of infuriating weather and inspired golf everything came down to one match. Thirty-five thousand fans were there to see it finish, and when Hunter Mahan reached out his hand they engulfed the 17th green to conjure scenes that will be replayed long after the players and captains have left the game behind.
Graeme McDowell, whose 3&1 victory over Mahan sealed the deal, said it made winning the US Open feel like playing nine holes with his dad. Rory McIlroy, having 12 months ago called the Ryder Cup an exhibition match, came round to label this the greatest golf event of them all. And Colin Montgomerie, Europe's commander in chief, teared up with two years of pride and unrelenting effort rewarded in the most dramatic way imaginable.
Montgomerie played down any sense of personal achievement in winning back the Ryder Cup for Europe, but he wasn't fooling anyone. The great Scot has won a bucketload of Order of Merits and a has house full of trophies, but this past week in the Usk Valley will unquestionably define his career. Would he swap this for a major? No chance.
Europe's captain famously said he wouldn't leave a single stone unturned, and in his meticulous preparations for Celtic Manor he won the hearts and minds of his players, the fans and even the media protagonists who have felt his wrath more than once in the past.
Monty's decision to pick five vice-captains, all of them Ryder Cup royalty, was inspired. Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn, Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal were everywhere - relentlessly co-ordinating events on their walkie-talkies and offering encouragement and support at every opportunity to the 12 players on the course.
And what of his wild card picks? Luke Donald was Europe's driving force, his three points equalled only by Mr Ryder Cup, Ian Poulter. Padraig Harrington delivered two points in partnership with Ross Fisher, and Edoardo Molinari delivered far more than the one point reflected on the board.
But perhaps Monty's defining contribution will be remembered as the motivational speech he delivered to a flagging European team on Saturday afternoon. Their captain asked for passion, and he asked that they involve the crowds as much as possible. The result was arguably the most dominant single session of golf by a European team on record.
Ultimately, it was the session that won the Ryder Cup.
As for Corey Pavin's US team, they go away with heads held high and reputations enhanced to a man. It's hard to imagine a more dignified captain leading a more dignified and sportsmanlike team. For those who question the morality of sport in the modern era, this Ryder Cup was a much-needed antidote.
Two years to wait until we do it all over again.