Putt it there: Ryder Cup begins on friendly note

Ian Poulter acknowledges the crowd alongside Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy at the opening ceremony. Picture: Getty
Ian Poulter acknowledges the crowd alongside Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy at the opening ceremony. Picture: Getty
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A PLACE he described as his ­“second home” did Tom Watson proud again yesterday.

The clouds parted and sunshine bathed the stage as the popular United States captain delivered a speech to mark the start of the 40th edition of the Ryder Cup, which gets under way today at Gleneagles.

Watson claimed four of his five Open championship victories in Scotland and so has ­always had a special affinity here.

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It is one reason why the 65-year-old has been handed the captaincy – the US know Watson’s presence could help reduce the partisan fervour they might otherwise have faced in Perthshire.

But the theme of yesterday’s opening ceremony was kinship – and Scotland.

Just a week earlier, the country was consumed by putting an X in a box. Now it is the hopefully less divisive question of putting a ball in a hole. But the next three days will of course prove competitive – neither side would want it any other way.

Just under eight weeks after the closing ceremony for the Commonwealth Games, Scotland had its best hat on again.

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Several of the Scottish medal- winners from the Games were invited back yesterday.

Boxing gold medallist Charlie Flynn provided support to the Europeans in his own inimitable style when he implored the team to “get your game face on, it’s time to do this!”

Once again, First Minister Alex Salmond stood at a lectern, though in happier circumstances this time. After some initial booing, he was given a warm reception.

He welcomed the competitors to Scotland – all but one, Bathgate’s Stephen ­Gallacher, hail from elsewhere. Mr Salmond reminded listeners that the event is “coming home” to Gleneagles.

It was here that the first ­intercontinental challenge match was held in 1921.

There were two native Scots in the British team, but four in the US side. “Scotland could claim victory regardless of the outcome,” said Mr Salmond, with a smile.

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The US and European teams took to the stage in tartan jackets – again underlining the spirit of friendship while referencing a host country that is proving so hospitable.

A rendering of the Robert Burns poem A Red, Red Rose opened the ceremony. Amy Macdonald also sang her hit song This is the Life. The ­Bishopbriggs singer explained it was about “waking up with a hangover”.

But it was Watson who stole the show. With reference to those occasions in the Ryder Cup when golf’s reputation for gentlemanly conduct has been threatened, he said: “We begin on a note of friendship and we will end the same way.”

European captain Paul McGinley concurred and told the 5,000-strong crowd: “You will be loud and proud but I also know you will be considerate and gracious – it is that which makes the Ryder Cup unique.”

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