Out Of The Shadows Come Heroes
Who’ll live up to Sam Torrance’s 2002 proclamation and shine for Europe in this year’s Ryder Cup?
Will there be a Phillip Price doppelganger standing in a crowded bar afterwards shouting: “Tell them who I beat!” The Welshman famously, joyously pleaded with Lee Westwood do just that as Westwood stood with a microphone introducing the victorious 2002 European team to a rapturous home audience in the bar at The Belfry after Europe had beaten America 15 ½ – 12 ½. Price had every right to ask Westwood to elaborate: he famously defeated Phil Mickelson 3&2 in the final singles session.
Price has dined out on that victory ever since. So he should.
Torrance captained quite few shadowy heroes those three days in September 2002. Price played in that side with Niclas Fasth, Paul McGinely and Pierre Fulke. That quartet was supposedly Europe’s weak third, yet all four delivered on the final day.
Torrance stacked his singles draw with his strongest players. Fasth, McGinley, Fulke and Price went out in the number eight, nine, 10 and 11 matches. All contributed to the European victory. McGinley got the winning point when he halved with Jim Furyk after Fasth had fashioned a similar result against Paul Azinger. Fulke then split his contest with Davis Love III.
Out of the shadows indeed.
That there were four unexpected heroes that final day was perhaps an oddity, but there’s here’s always one Euro who comes out of the wings to impress even die hard European golf fans, never mind American golf lovers who had no idea Player X could perform so well.
Who’d have thought Paul Way would come up with three and half points out of five on his debut in 1983, including a singles victory over Curtis Strange, as Europea came within a point of winning the cup for the first time since 1957?
Most pundits wouldn't have picked Eamonn Darcy to beat Ben Crenshaw in singles at Murifield Village in 1987, even if Crenshaw played part of the round without his trusty putter.
Two years later another unheralded Irishman helped Europe to success. Tony Jacklin's 1985 side wouldn’t have retained the cup if Christy O’Connor Jr hadn’t hit that superb 2 iron on the 18th green to defeat Fred Couples.
The United States may have narrowly won the infamous 1991 "War by the Shore", but you have to wonder if that would have happened if Bernard Gallacher had played Paul Broadhurst earlier. The Englishman only played the last two sessions, winning both his matches, with a 3&1 victory over Mark O’Meara to boot.
Peter Baker shone in a losing effort in 1991, winning two out of three including putting Corey Pavin off the golf course in a two-hole win.
Philip Walton in 1995 anyone? Who’d have bet on the Irishman getting the winning point with a one-hole win over experienced Jay Haas. I interviewed Walton a few days later in his home town of Malahide. I think he was still hung over. Who wouldn't have been?
Ian Woosnam labelled Thomas Bjorn “The Great Dane” in 1997 when he teamed with the rookie and future European captain for a 2&1 four-ball victory over Justin Leonard and Brad Faxon. Bjorn then earned a half with Leonard in singles as Seve crowned his only tilt at Ryder Cup captaincy on the only occasion the match has been held in Spain.
Lost in the Miracle at Medinah hype is certain rookie by the name of Nicolas Colsaerts. True, Colsaerts lost two of his three matches, but Europe wouldn’t have won that Ryder Cup without the Belgian making eight birdies and an eagle as he and Lee Westwood beat strong American pair Tiger Woods and current captain Steve Stricker by one hole in the Friday four balls.
Jamie Donaldson (pictured) bettered fellow Welshman Price’s exploits at Gleneagles in 2014, winning three points out of four. His reward for a 4&3 win over Keegan Bradley to get the winning point was a pony ride from Bjorn. The Dane carried Donaldson into the interview room, with the Welshman applying an imaginary whip to his Danish stead. Can you imagine two American Ryder Cuppers entering the interview room in such fashion?
How Thomas Pieters hasn’t come close to the last two Ryder Cups after winning four points out of five in a losing 2016 match at Hazeltine is surprising. He might have gone five for five if not for his Friday foursomes pairing with an out-of-form Lee Westwood. Pieters would have been a genuine out of the shadows hero if Europe had won. His performance will probably be forgotten amid a lacklustre European performance against a strong American team.
Who’ll come out of the shadows in this Ryder Cup?
#JustSaying: “The Americans play for their country; we play for each other!" Rory McIlroy