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  • Alistair Tait

What The Ryder Cup Means to Europe

How much does the Ryder Cup mean to European golfers? Shane Lowry’s above tweet upon receiving Padraig Harrington’s one Ryder Cup pick says it all.

Proudest day of his career? Really? From someone who has had the ultimate accolade of being called “Champion Golfer of the Year” for winning the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush? That says it all about the passion Europe brings to every Ryder Cup match. Hmmm, wonder how many Americans would put making the Ryder Cup team ahead of getting their hands on a major trophy?

Answers on a post card please, but I’m reminded of Tiger Woods response about winning a World Golf Championship over a Ryder Cup. If my memory serves me right, Woods said in 2002 there were a million reasons, as in $1 million, he’d rather win a WGC than the biennial match. Maybe that explains why Woods has a 13-21-3 won/lost/halved Ryder Cup record and has appeared on just one winning U.S. team (1999) from eight appearances. Woods’ Ryder Cup record is arguably the biggest mystery of his playing career.

Wait a minute, I hear you say: “Padraig Harrington’s one Ryder Cup pick? Surely you mean three?” No. As I said in my 30 August blog, Harrington only had one pick. As I wrote then, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter were definite locks for two of those picks the way the team was shaping up. So it’s proved.

No way was Harrington travelling to Whistling Straits without Europe’s record points earner in Garcia, and without the man who brings the energy to every Ryder Cup he plays in: Poulter.

That blog was the ultimate no brainer, especially considering the private conversation I had with Ian last month. And no, he didn’t tell me he’d been given the nod, but I didn’t need to be a body language expert to tell he was extremely confident he’d be on the team. Plus, he stated openly Harrington would pick Garcia if he didn’t make the team on merit.

So one pick it was. The question was, who would it be? There were only really two choices.

There are those who think Justin Rose should have been one of Harrington’s picks. Rose was in the frame, but Lowry deserved it ahead of the Englishman, even if the 2013 U.S. Open champion is a five-time Ryder Cup veteran.

"It was tough leaving Justin Rose out," Harrington admitted.

As for 2019 Open champion Lowry:

“It was an easy pick based on his form,” Harrington said. “Can you imagine playing under that stress all summer – being that guy that people are talking about? He definitely delivered for me and he definitely delivered for all the vice-captains and with the stats, he lines up well. He’s going to bring enthusiasm into the team.”

It’s a credit to the strength of team unity that Rose had no hard feelings about not making the European team.

"You can only blame yourself if you don't get in and don't get picked,” Rose said. “If it doesn't go my way, I'll say good luck to the boys and cheer them on anyway."

No surprise there: the Ryder Cup means far more to Europeans than it does to American players. It has done since a guy called Seve Ballesteros scolded a dejected European team which narrowly lost (13 ½ – 14 ½) the 1983 match at Palm Beach Gardens.

“Why do you all sit there like that?” Seve shouted at his teammates. “What is the matter with all of you? This has been a great, great victory. This proves we can beat them. We must celebrate.”

The Europeans have been celebrating ever since, partly because the Ryder Cup is far more important to players like Lowry than major trophies.

#JustSaying: “That was the spark: Seve in 1983. By 1985 we knew we could do it: we could win the Ryder Cup.” Nick Faldo

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Said it before and will say it again... Europeans have way more of a deep seeded desire to beat Americans (at anything) than Americans have the other way around. And Euro golfers (and Euro media in general) maintain that burning desire the 103 weeks between Ryder Cups... whereas the Americans have it 1 or 2. If that.

How do I know? Pretty easily seeing the passion Euros give the RC... while they basically yawned at Seve Cup or or other aytempts at team competitions against non-Americans.

And at this point I'm not even sure beating Euros is as big a motivation for Americans in RC, as not losing is. Different mindset that IMO fosters even more American RC losses.

Sep 15, 2021
Replying to

I think Koepka's comments this week about not being able to do his own thing bear your theory out.... I mean, for one week can't he just be part of the team?

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