Ryder Cup: Glorious Gleneagles rises to occasion

Gleneagles is primed and ready to host this week's Ryder Cup ' the first to be held in Scotland in over 40 years. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Gleneagles is primed and ready to host this week's Ryder Cup ' the first to be held in Scotland in over 40 years. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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SCOTLAND has delivered. You only need to set foot inside the grounds at Gleneagles to become aware of that. Put simply, there’s a wow factor for our first Ryder Cup in more than 40 years.

It’s big, very big. In comparison, it makes the Johnnie Walker Championship, the event held on the PGA Centenary Course for more than a decade and enjoyed by its loyal band of supporters, feel like a monthly medal.

Over the past weeks, a normally tranquil setting has been like a bustling building site, the landscape changing dramatically from week to week. The end result, I’d have to say, is fantastic. A credit to Ryder Cup Europe. A credit to Scotland, the home of golf.

Having been fortunate to cover a number of these contests now, I was aware how big the Ryder Cup had become. The scale of what’s been created at the Perthshire resort certainly hasn’t come as a surprise.

I’d also become used to getting emotional more at this event than any other. The highlights from the ‘Miracle of Medinah’ were running the other night and I could feel myself welling up.

It was definitely a first, though, when I was out for a wander after arriving up at Gleneagles on Sunday and felt similarly choked. Why? I think it’s because this Ryder Cup, the 40th one, is being played at a venue so close to my heart.

As a golf-mad kid growing up in Berwickshire, I remember watching the BBC’s ‘Pro- Celebrity Golf’ series in the 1970s and instantly falling in love with Gleneagles.

Being taken there for the first time by my dad – we sneaked on to the Queen’s Course for a game one evening (well, the starter had finished for the day and no-one was about) while up watching an event on the King’s Course – was on a par with my maiden visit to the Open Championship, which just happened to be a famous staging at Turnberry in 1977.

Every single return trip to Gleneagles since then has been something I’ve savoured, the juices starting to flow on the drive through Glendevon in anticipation of getting to the top of the hill to see the iconic hotel nestling below.

It’s ironic, of course, that I won’t be able to make that journey this week due to it being exclusively for buses, but that’s a minor disappointment.

On Sunday, the sun was shining. Gleneagles was in its full glory. It wasn’t too shabby yesterday, either, as the two teams arrived to start preparing for Friday’s start. We can only wait and see what Mother Nature has in store between now and this Sunday and, please Mother Nature, don’t deal Scotland the same hand as Ireland or Wales, where The K Club and Celtic Manor were turned into mud baths following heavy rain.

Both those events ended in European wins. Will we see another one at Gleneagles? Paul McGinley has 12 strong players at his disposal, including the world No 1 Rory McIlroy and, of course, ‘Mr Ryder Cup’ Ian Poulter. He also has others, notably Stephen Gallacher and Thomas Bjorn, who know the PGA Centenary Course like the back of their hand.

Don’t for one minute, though, be fooled into thinking that Tom Watson has come here with a weak force in comparison. Watson’s own impact can be huge, too, though Tom knows this will be one occasion he won’t have a Scottish gallery in his corner.

The scene is set then. We’ve known for 13 years that this Ryder Cup was coming to Scotland. It’s probably felt like a lifetime for some, including head greenkeeping honcho Scott Fenwick, who has the course looking fantastic. Gallacher and has caddie, Damian Moore, have both been told to “enjoy it”. That’s a message which should apply to all of Scotland this week.