Vousden is Whistling into the Wind

Thought for the Day
It would be very easy to drool with sentimentality over the Ryder Cup. But, at the end of the day, it is simply two teams trying to knock seven bells out of each other, in the nicest possible way.
Peter Alliss

Slaughter on the Shore
Success in sport (along with failure) comes in cycles. After watching the demolition of Europe in the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, I fear that our long, almost too-good-to-be-true string of triumphs has not only ended, but we may be watching the emergence of team USA as once again the dominant force in this biennial competition.

America has a depressingly long list of young, energetic and supremely talented golfers – people like Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Scotty Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Berger are all in the their 20s. Bruce Koepka and Tony Finau are 31, Harris English 32 and Dustin Johnson must feel his aching bones creak every time he tees it up, at the positively ancient age of 37.

Steve Stricker calculatingly used four of his six captain’s picks on the energy and exuberance of youth, along with four who would be making their debut in the competition, arguing that they would not be carrying the scars of previous defeats. He was absolutely right. In contrast, Padraig Harrington plumped for experience and, incidentally, turned down the chance to increase the number of selections he could make, sticking with only three.

Sad to say, in two years’ time just outside Rome, several familiar faces will not be present. Lee Westwood has surely defied the inevitably of ageing for the last time, Ian Poulter’s heroics are now a memory, Justin Rose, who couldn’t get himself picked this time around will, along with Sergio Garcia, be 43, while Paul Casey is two years older. But who are the hotshot European tyros to assume the mantle? Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre is making steady progress, Thomas Detry, if he adds a little consistency to his birdie blitzes, could become the third Belgian to play in the competition, following Nicolas Colsaerts (and whatever happened to him?) in 2012 and Thomas Pieters four years later.

Depressingly, the Race to Dubai standings as I write show that six out of the top-10 are not eligible to represent Europe but even more distressing is that the top two (Morikawa and Billy Horschel) are not only from the land of hamburgers and fries, but have achieved dominance through playing only a handful of events. Their best can beat ours in their spare time, it seems.

The omens are not good.

Some random thoughts from Whistling Straits
• First, what a great matchplay golf course, but most of us amateurs would be having kittens if we had to play it – especially the par threes alongside Lake Michigan.
• Of course, Sky Sports has to try and maintain interest but to constantly refer to the Miracle of Medinah, as if Europe was going to pull off an even more outrageous performance, was stretching credibility beyond breaking point. The contest was dead and buried after two days.
• And why, on the first morning, within ten minutes of the opening tee shots, did Nick Dougherty interview someone called Steph Curry, who we were told was a Golden State Warriors NBA Player? For an American audience it would be perhaps understandable, for the rest of us it was an avoidable irritation.
• Matthew Fitzpatrick has played five matches in two Ryder Cups and doesn’t even have a half-point to show for it. Spare a thought.
• The biggest single factor in determining the outcome of the competition is home advantage (except in two years’ time I think that might change).
• What the heck is the Nicklaus-Jacklin Award (given to Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson) about? Do we really need an individual trophy, that everyone will have forgotten by next week, when the Ryder Cup is all about team performance.
• American fans, while not matching some of the vile language of previous competitions, still showed that a small minority have no class, style or brains. Booing Europeans on the first tee, shouts of ‘Get in the water!’ (to Lee Westwood’s ball) and ‘You’re going to choke!’ to Sergio were an embarrassment – or should be if the morons who shouted them were capable of such a thing.
• And what the heck was the cry of ‘Freedom!’ all about?
• Padraig Harrington made some quirky calls (splitting Garcia and Rahm but keeping McIlroy and Poulter together, for example) but it’s the players who have to deliver and ours didn’t.
• Bryson DeChambeau driving the ball 417-yards over a lake, leaving 72-yards to the flag, on the dogleg par five 5th, was both obscene and marvellous.
• DeChambeau comes across as polite, respectful and slightly bemused by any antagonism directed towards him, going out of his way to play down any animosity between him and anyone else.
• Brooks Koepka wouldn’t do the same, was unacceptably vile to rules officials and suggested in the lead-in to the competition that he could take or leave it. I used to think he was a stimulatingly candid breath of fresh air but not anymore. He’s a bumptiously arrogant, nasty, boor without much evidence of common decency or manners.
• A 19-9 scoreline isn’t a commanding win, it’s an unparalleled slaughter.
• Despite that, it was refreshing to see several of the European players laughing and joking with their American counterparts at the end; and you would be pretty sure that most of the losers would join their opponents’ celebration party later that evening. A stark contrast to Le Golf National three years ago.
• And at least it has given headline writers some fun – ‘Slaughter by the Water,’ ‘Wake by the Lake’ and ‘Dire Straits’ being just three that I have spotted, and all three of those are from James Corrigan in the Daily Telegraph. Sadly, I can’t improve on any of them – ‘Whistling into the Wind’ isn’t in the same class.

Quote of the Week
I trust that the effect of this match will be to influence a cordial, friendly and peaceful feeling throughout the whole civilised world… I look upon the Royal and Ancient game as being a powerful force that influences the best things in humanity.
Samuel Ryder

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