- Alistair Tait
Where the banter never stops
Want to know where that huge intangible called team spirit comes from that’s helped Europe win nine of the last 12 Ryder Cups despite often having weaker teams? Watch the European Tour’s latest social media success: Angry Golfers.
The European Tour social media team has once again produced a vignette that’s not only entertaining, but helps explain why European Tour players come together every two years to form a cohesive unit to take on the might of the United States.
The European Tour social media team has obviously scripted and planned this brilliant vignette, but they wouldn’t have had to cajole the players into taking part. In fact, I bet there was no need to go through management groups to get to the participants. The players would have been up for it right from the get go. It’s just an extension of the banter, the practical jokes, that never stops on the European Tour.
Banter and practical jokes are part and parcel of European Tour life. Have been since I began my golf writing career nearly 30 years ago. The banter is hard to describe to some of my North American friends. It not like trash talk, but far subtler. Very few are immune to it. Ditto the practical jokes. I could write a book on practical jokes played through the years. There have been some belters.
The bigger the ego the more likely they’ll be the subject of one of those practical jokes, to a bit of banter. Anyone who turns up on tour with a huge ego is quickly taken down a peg or two. And not just by players. By caddies too. I’ve heard many a caddie over the years take a player down with a well-timed, witty line. Officials and even golf journalists aren't immune from such put downs either.
Seve Ballesteros often talked about everyone on the European Tour being part of one big family. Yes, there's the odd argument or three, but there's a cohesiveness you can almost touch. I believe it manifests itself through the banter that naturally occurs on tour. It's obvious in how Europeans of different nationalities come together as one every Ryder Cup.
Think back to just over two years ago when some – one foolish American journalist in particular – were predicting a much weaker on paper European Ryder Cup team would wilt like roses in 100 degree heat to allegedly one of the strongest American teams ever assembled. Yet Europe ran out fairly comfortable winners at Le Golf National on the outskirts of Paris. When asked to explain, most of the European side pointed to that intangible I talked about at the start of this blog. Rory McIlroy said:
“The togetherness of the team, the great camaraderie we have, that's built up on the European Tour. Obviously we all have our separate lives going on, but once we get together for the Ryder Cup, we all come together as one.”
“That’s one of the big things about European Ryder Cups over the past few years. We’ve basically left any sort of egos at the door, and no one’s allowed to have an ego.”
Graeme McDowell acted as one of Thomas Bjorn’s vice captains in France and gained a fresh perspective on Europe’s team spirit as a result.
“I started to think it was a bit of a fallacy all this talk about the camaraderie about the European Team, that maybe that idea was over-played because half the guys play in America and the other half play in Europe but it’s real,” McDowell said. “It does exist. I saw it this week in front of my own eyes. I saw Rory McIlroy lift Tyrrell Hatton’s spirits. I saw Justin Rose being able to lift Thorbjorn Olesen up to his level. I’ve seen it happen. I know it’s real.
“European players naturally gel together without thinking. They become different people every two years. It comes naturally. Rory McIlroy’s a different person this week than he is week to week on the PGA Tour when he’s looking after himself. Seve was the same. So was Ollie (Jose Maria Olazabal).”
Paul Casey returned to the match after a 10-year absence and slotted back into the team as if he’d never been away.
“I can’t explain why we are such a cohesive unit,” Casey said. “I don’t have the answer and I don’t need to know the answer. I just know we have something special and it was there again this week. It just comes naturally for us.”
Let the banter continue.
#JustSaying: “A Ryder Cup team brings the best out in all Europeans. That is what we are. We are cross nations. We have different cultural backgrounds. We believe in different things, but when we get on that team, we are proud of being European. It's forgotten that we have so much in common.” Thomas Bjorn