Utter nonsense to claim Ryder Cup is 'broken' after roaring success in Rome - Martin Dempster

It would be wrong to say it was the ‘best’ one I’ve been at because the bar had been set high on a journey that had already taken me to The Belfry, Oakland Hills, The K Club, Valhalla, Celtic Manor, Medinah, Gleneagles, Hazeltine and Le Golf National. However, Ryder Cup No 10 for me was certainly close to one of my favourite ones when it comes to this special event and there were a variety of reasons for that, not just because it ended with the coveted trophy back in European hands.

First and foremost, it involved being in Italy and it is difficult not to enjoy spending time in a country where the food is magnificent - my mouth is watering just thinking about a lunch option one day in the media centre of slow-cooked Tuscan beef served with ribbon pasta - and, of course, nice wine and beer are also a temptation at the end of a long day at the coalface and, believe me, the days are long for everyone when it comes to the Ryder Cup.

The weather played ball, too. It was roasting in Rome the whole week and dry conditions, both overhead and underfoot, allowed thousands of fans to set up camp at various vantage points around the Marco Simone course and watch the action either in front of their eyes or on giant TV screens dotted around the venue.

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It’s hard to believe, but the infrastructure for a Ryder Cup gets bigger and bigger with every match. Someone was telling me that the build for the hospitality units, spectator village etc represented a 25 per cent growth from Le Golf National in 2018 amd it’s set to be another 25 per cent bigger when Adare Manor in Ireland hosts Europe’s next home encounter in 2027.

The 16th hole at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club was one of the main vantage points for spectatores during the 44th Ryder Cup in Italy. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images.The 16th hole at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club was one of the main vantage points for spectatores during the 44th Ryder Cup in Italy. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images.
The 16th hole at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club was one of the main vantage points for spectatores during the 44th Ryder Cup in Italy. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images.

While the first-tee amphitheatre for this one wasn’t as big in terms of seat numbers than the one in France, I liked this one better due to the fact it was more of a horse-shoe shape and, as a consequence, the atmosphere seemed better. And, when it comes to golf, there is simply nowhere like the first tee of the Ryder Cup in terms of stirring emotion. I remember my first one in 2002 and instantly feeling the hairs on the back of my neck stand up for the first time in my life and that still happens. Since Gleneagles, though, in 2014, I’ve also felt my eyes start to moisten and, on this occasion, I actually had to wipe away a couple of tears as two golfing gladiators - Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm - got the decisive singles underway in a tunnel of noise as huge crowds encircled the opening hole.

The fans certainly played a part in making this one really special. Yes, there were boos for the Americans, cheers when they missed greens or putts and also lots of comments flying around, with Scheffler, in particular, taking a lot of heat in that match against Rahm after he’d been caught on TV in tears following a record 9&7 hammering alongside Brooks Koepka in the Saturday fourballs.

While I’m not entirely in favour of that sort of stuff in golf, it’s part of what the Ryder Cup has become and, in my opinion, there is nothing really wrong with that as long as the line isn’t crossed and the next one in front of a New York crowd at Bethpage Black will certainly be a test in that respect.

Neither, and I know I am probably opening myself up for some stick with this admission because I felt entirely the opposite in the past, are the lengths some people now go to as they add a bit of extra colour and fun to the event, and I’m not just talking about the Guardians of the Ryder Cup or the US Marshals. I was tickled by one American fan waving a small blow up horse above her head and signing the song from cowboy classic Bonanza while in a group sense my favourite was a bunch of either Austrian or German blokes who were wearing lederhosen but mainly caught my eye due to the fact they also had knitted tea-cosy style hats and they couldn’t have been the best headwear in the sweltering heat.

And let’s not forget about the golf course itself. As was the case with the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles, the Ryder Cup brings what many people might not think is a great course to life as matches are fought out and I’d definitely say that Marco Simone played its part in the sporting spectacle that was once again served up in the event.

The last three holes - a driveable par 4, a tough par 3 and a challenging downhill par 5 - were absolutely fantastic for a match-play contest and how many times did huge roars echo around the property as someone chipped in for an eagle at the 16th? I was also standing behind the green there as Patrick Cantlay made his way down the fairway on Saturday afternoon to the incredible sight of thousands of fans twirling hats in the air and singing “hats off for your bank account” after it had been claimed that Cantlay didn’t wear one in the match in a protest over the players not being paid to represent their respective continents. Really? Don’t they earn more than enough in the other 51 weeks of the year when they are independent contractors and not part of one of the greatest team events in sport?

Cantlay, it must be said, deserves credit for the way he played and Max Homa, too. But most of the star performers wore European colours, led by McIlroy, Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and, of course, our own Bob MacIntyre, who grew into the week and got better and better as it wore on. Some might have doubted he was good enough to hold his own on this stage but, boy, did he make them eat their words and there’s no reason whatsoever why this can’t the first of a few appearances against the Americans, tough as it is to be among just 12 players to get this amazing opportunity every two years.

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Last but certainly not least, Luke Donald is another reason why I will always cherish this working week at a Ryder Cup. He may not have been Ryder Cup Europe’s first choice - Henrik Stenson, of course, initially held the post before he joined LIV Golf - but the Englishman was mighty impressive, setting the tone for his captaincy with one of the slickest speeches I’ve witnessed at an opening ceremony and ticking every box thereafter.

Credit, too, to his vice captains because, like any tasty meal or trendy cocktail, it’s all about getting the ingredients and mixers right, which Donald certainly did by having Jose Maria Olazabal, Thomas Bjorn, Edoardo and Francesco Molinari and Nicolas Colsaerts as his trusted lieutenants. Europe could win at Bethpage Black if it was the same captain and same vice captains.

Apparently, it’s been claimed by an American golf writer that the Ryder Cup is “broken” due to the fact there’s not been a close encounter since Medinah in 2012. Utter bollocks because, even though, the Americans started this one dismally, we weren’t totally surely Europe would get over the line on Sunday as red dominated the scoreboards at one point. Seriously, what more do some people want because it’s impossible for every match in either the Ryder Cup or Solheim Cup to come down to the wire. Let’s just enjoy what we have.



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