ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND | For the victorious Ryder Cup team, where better for a victorious homecoming than St Andrews, venue of last week’s Dunhill Links championship. Much as would have applied when Young Tom Morris returned to the town after winning the Open Championship Belt outright, what happened at Celtic Manor was the talk of every street and fairway.
“I’ve had this happen twice, now,” said a beaming Graeme McDowell. “After I won at Pebble Beach, I was at St Andrews for the Open, and now, after the Ryder Cup, I’m back here again. You couldn’t get a better atmosphere.”
Though the pace of play in 2010 may be twice as slow as it was in Young Tom Morris’ day, the spreading of news happens a little faster. Last Monday, the people of St Andrews erupted as one as the result came through.
They had been gathered around the TV in almost every home and hostelry while, out on the course, Johann Rupert, chairman of Dunhill’s parent company and Lee Westwood’s playing companion for the week, was practising on the links while watching the match on his iPad. (On any other day and in any other circumstances even he would have been in trouble for tuning into such new-fangled technology when he should have been concentrating on his golf).
The Rupert party of friends and caddies was on the 17th tee when McDowell holed his 15-footer to go two ahead with two to play at Celtic Manor. And they were on the 17th green when the contest was won, with their excited shrieks sweeping across the links. Hardly surprisingly, the professional who was endeavouring to hole a putt on the shared second green missed his six-footer with room to spare.
European pride reached fresh heights when Westwood arrived in the press room for his pre-tournament interview and was asked about his plans for 2011. That was when he explained that he had changed his mind about taking up his American player’s card in that he was happier where he was. His manager, Chubby Chandler, had called him on one side to ask why, when he was enjoying such a rich vein of success, he would want to change a winning formula. It had not taken too long for Westwood to decide that Chandler was right.
Though Westwood’s admiration for the PGA Tour was not in question, he said that there were several aspects of that circuit which are not quite right for him. In the first place, the FedEx series sits bang in the middle of his children’s summer holidays. “I don’t,” he ventured, “want to be dictated to by having to go to America to play in the FedEx Cup.”
Aha, but what about the 10-million plus dollars that Jim Furyk had been able to pocket?
Westwood raised his eyebrows and looked suitably agog at that amazing sum of money. Then, though, he ran through a few of those things in life which mean rather more to him. Having talked of his family, he listed the European tournaments he would hate to miss, starting with the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre.
“It’s a bit like a St Andrews up in the mountains,” he began, in a reference to how course and town converge.
Above all, he loves that moment in Crans when he steps on to the seventh tee. Not because this par 4 is eminently drivable but because of the views over the Rhone Valley and the adjacent mountains. “You stand up there and you feel on top of the world,” said the player who is on the point of reaching those dizzy heights in his own domain. “I wouldn’t want to miss out on that week for anything.”
Montgomerie, as everyone knows, can be a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character but it was the same Monty who left Celtic Manor who turned up in St Andrews where he was welcomed as a true hero.
He had received any number of congratulatory calls, texts and emails but there were two notable omissions. Neither Justin Rose nor Paul Casey had been in touch and, quite frankly, he was not about to blame them. The fact that he had to leave the two of them out of his team was the one element of his captaincy which had caused him more tossing and turning by night than any other. “I shouldn’t,” he said for the umpteenth time, “have had to leave out top-10 players.”
Though Monty will not shed his worries on that score until the qualifying system has been revised, he revelled in picking up his clubs for the first time in weeks and playing in the Dunhill. On the first day, he handed in a 72 of which he decreed, “All things considered, it was a bloody good effort.”
He was partnered by his older brother, Douglas, for the pro-am side of things and, even before they teed up, Monty said that he was no more inclined to captain their team than he was to take charge of another Ryder Cup side. He felt that it should be up to the older sibling to call the shots.