Confession time. The Ryder Cup has always been a tad problematic for yours truly here at Random Towers. On account of the fact that my favourite golfer plays for the other team. And he’s not just any player either. He’s a major player, a big name, a Ryder Cup regular. The sort of player you need to want to lose if you want your team to win. I spend the whole year rooting for him at every golf tournament he plays and then for 3 days once every two years, I need him to lose. Badly. Ambiguous or what?
Obviously, we at Random Towers support Europe, but my favourite player is Phil Mickelson of the USA (not to mention the soft spot for Dustin Johnson and a confusing interest-hate spot for Jordan Spieth). Also not mentioning that the heir apparent to big Phil is Rory McIlroy, poster boy for the European team. So of course, inevitably, they had to be pitted against each other in Friday’s opening morning foursomes at Hazeltine.
Now, illustrious player he may be but Phil Mickelson hasn’t exactly covered himself in Ryder Cup glory. Aside from an uninspiring playing record, there was the unedifying criticism of losing USA captain and everyone’s old favourite, Tom Watson, two years ago. Earlier this week, he continued his unnecessary bad captaincy critique, this time dredging up old wounds from way back in 2004 when grumbling about how the then captain Hal Sutton had the temerity to pair him with Tiger Woods when there was very little love lost between them. Come on, Phil. I love you man, but move on already. Phil was in need of some actual Ryder Cup points if he wanted to earn some redemptive brownie points with golf fans. So who to support – Phil or Rory?
The dithering lasted until the first partisan cries of ‘OOOHSA’ ‘OOOHSA’. Danny Willett’s vexatious brother may have been very wrong to write his incendiary article mocking the unruly American golfing gallery, but he did have a point. They are notorious for their lack of sportsmanship during Ryder Cups. The European fans, to give them their due, are fanatical but fair. The Americans are just fanatical – about USA. Great if you happen to support USA, but incredibly aggravating if you don’t.
They were in their element as red dominated the board, with the US team whitewashing Europe by winning all four of the morning games, with Phil and partner Ricky Fowler coming back from 2 down with 4 to play to win 1 up on the last against Rory and debutant Andy Sullivan. Of course, I was happy (and relieved) for Phil, but miffed for Rory and Europe that they had thrown it away towards the end. Thankfully, there was no conflict in the afternoon as Phil was rested for the fourballs. The Europeans must have enjoyed a good lunch because they came storming back. The rowdy home crowd was temporarily subdued as Europe won three out of the four matches, with only Brandt Snedeker’s fire hot putter saving the Americans from being whitewashed themselves. It was poetic that Rory McIlroy should score the final point with a thrilling eagle on the 16th to bring Europe back into contention. Rory had been getting wound up by the factional crowd all day so appeared determined to take pleasure in silencing them. After he landed the winning putt, he bowed theatrically to the muted gallery before punching the air emphatically. Point made, as well as gained.
Unfortunately for me, guess who’s up against whom in the opening match of tomorrow morning’s foursomes? Yep, it’s Phil v Rory Part II. If they end up facing each other in the singles, I will cry.