Ryder Cup 2021: Why event is in blood of Europeans

It’s taken me to The Belfry in England, Oakland Hills in Detroit, The K Club in Ireland, Valhalla in Louisville, Celtic Manor in Wales, Medinah in Chicago, Gleneagles on my doorstep, Hazeltine in Minnesota and Le Golf National in France.

Henrik Stenson tees off the first hole during the opening fourball matches in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Picture: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images.

In some respect, I can add Whistling Straits in Wisconsin to that list, having attended a ‘year to go event’ for the 43rd edition of the biennial that turned into ‘two years to go’ due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t really count.

Not when you’ve become used to experiencing the special occasion that is Ryder Cup week, and I certainly can’t deny feeling a tinge of sadness about ongoing restrictions in terms of travelling to the US meaning it will be a remote experience for me on this occasion.

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Every single one of those previous Ryder Cups provided memories that will live with me forever, mostly good but, at the same time, the odd bad one, too.

At The Belfry in 2002, for example, I still remember feeling the hairs on the back of my neck bristling for the first time at a golf tournament as I stood close to the opening tee as Sam Torrance sent his players out in the singles.

Two years later, working for a golf magazine and not having to fret about the time difference as my newspaper colleagues faced deadlines back home, I felt immensely privileged to be sitting a few feet away at the back of the 18th green as Colin Montgomerie raised his arms in celebration after holing the winning putt at Oakland Hills.

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In 2006 at The K Club, I still remember that ugly pull hook from Tiger Woods on the first tee on the opening morning that found a watery grave as if it happened last week, while the atmosphere on the holes down beside the River Liffey for that match really was something special.

Colin Montgomerie reacts to sinking the winning putt in the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills Cin Detroit. Picture: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images.

At Valhalla two years further on, the ever-lasting memory is standing at the opening ceremony and realising it wasn’t going to pan out well for Europe when captain Nick Faldo presented Dane Soren Hansen as Soren Stenson.

‘Mud, mud, glorious mud’ is always the first thing that comes to mind when I think about Celtic Manor in 2010, though, at the same time, Monty also showed his nous on that occasion when the format was changed mid-event and his players grabbed the bull by the horns.

It probably goes without saying, but the final day in 2012 at Medinah was the most stressful day and most enjoyable day of my golf writing career rolled into one.

Back in the newspaper world, as each edition came round it was too close to call, but what an absolute thrill it was in the end to be able to relay such an incredible story with readers.

It probably merits a full column on its own, but one of my main memories from that home gig at Gleneagles is the sun rising above the Ochil Hills just before play started on the opening day and the event being blessed with great weather throughout.

The way Paul McGinley embraced the Scottish golf media from the start of his captaincy to the end for that encounter was also special while, for all the wrong reasons, we’ll never forget Phil Mickelson’s public attack on US captain Tom Watson following the conclusion of that match.

Hazeltine in 2016, unfortunately, wasn’t the most memorable of occasions from a European perspective, but Le Golf National certainly delivered something special three years ago, both in terms of the result for Thomas Bjorn’s boys and the spectator experience.

Yes, indeed, covering the Ryder Cup has been quite a journey and, while I hadn’t planned on having to do one remotely until our world became a strange place, it will still be a special week because, certainly from a European perspective, it’s an event that gets into your blood.

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