By Lawrence Donegan | Ryder Cup 2012
The former Guardian golf correspondent, caddy, pop star and author of the acclaimed Four Iron In The Soul gives his insight for the Paddy Power Blog on the fireworks we can expect at Medinah this weekend…
The first rule of writing is never begin with a question but when considering the predictability of the Ryder Cup there is no better place to start than this — remember Brett Wetterich and Vaughn Taylor?
If you do then you are either a member of Mr Wetterich or Mr Taylor’s immediate circle of family and friends, or you have your history book open at a page devoted to the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club in Co Kildare, Ireland.
That is an occasion long remembered for bad weather and exorbitant hotel prices, for Paul Casey’s hole-in-one and for Darren Clarke’s magnificent return to the sporting arena after the death of his wife, Heather. What the 2006 Ryder Cup is not remembered for, however, is the intensity of the competition.
Had Floyd Mayweather Jnr stepped into the ring against Louis Walsh, he would have been pressed to match the one-sidedness of the beating handed out by Ian Woosnam’s team to the team led by Tom Lehman over the course of that rain-sodden weekend.
The record books show an 18 1/2 to 9 1/2 win for Europe, matching the record margin of victory. Indeed, had Paul McGinley not offered a generous concession on the final green to JJ Henry (much to the chagrin of Woosnam, it should be noted) then the 2006 European team would have set a new standard for Ryder Cup humiliation.
For this they could thank some wonderful performances from the likes of Clarke, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald. But they could also thank a US team selection process that threw up the likes of Wetterich, a big-hitting bear of a man with nerves of balsa wood, and Taylor, the golfing embodiment of the school disco wallflower. Neither man has made much of an impression on the golfing world since 2006, far less had a sniff of a Ryder Cup appearance.
[Our gallery shows scenes from the K Club in 2006, including Darren Clarke celebrating after a traumatic personal year; Tiger congratulating his Irish pal; weak link Jim Furyk; golf WAGs Tabitha Furyk and Tiger’s ex-wife Elin Nordegren; and 2006 US captain Tom Lehman trying to rally his browned-off troops]
The point of this brief history lesson is not to prepare you for the 2012 version of golf’s greatest event, which starts on Friday at Medinah Country Club in Chicago, but to warn you against those who declare themselves certain about the outcome on Sunday.
After all, which of these soothsayers foresaw the Star-Spangled humiliation of 2006? Not me, and I was a well-paid, well-respected and well-off-the-mark golf correspondent at the time. If I had, I wouldn’t have spent countless hours and thousands of words in the pre-amble to the opening tee shot before revealing to the world: “The USA will win in a squeaker”.
Pardon me the hackneyed turn of phrase, and excuse me please for the faulty prediction. Had I known Wetterich and Taylor were to the Ryder Cup setting what Hinge and Bracket were to the Milan Opera House then I might have been more circumspect. Who knows, I might even have predicted a different outcome.
In my defence, I was not alone. Plenty of ‘experts’ picked Woosnam’s team to win but plenty of others went for Lehman’s hapless mob. Like me, they were caught in the headlights of Tiger Woods’ brilliance and failed to note the under-belly of mediocrity that fatally anchored the US team’s hopes.
The most over-rated ‘tough guy’ in golf…
One suspects the same thing is happening this time, albeit on the other side, with most of the attention being heaped on the youthful genius of Rory McIlroy. The young Northern Irishman is gifted alright, but this not a one-man competition. Fortunately, for Europe’s captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, there are no Brett Wetterichs or Vaughn Taylors on his team. He bats well all the way down to number 12.
The same could be said Davis Love III and his band of merry men. It’s a strong-looking squad all the way down, even if the inclusion of Jim Furyk — the most over-rated “tough guy” in contemporary golf — should represent the gift of a point or two to the Europeans.
Which brief analysis brings us to a conclusion, or least a half-hearted attempt to reclaim the title of the Ryder Cup’s very own Nostradamus so casually given away in 2006. The bookies make the Yanks marginal favourites, if only because home advantage usually confers half-a-point to the team playing in their own backyard. It is my firm belief that the bookies have a point. So here goes — American will win, but it will be close.
On past form, this suggests Europe will prevail by a record-equalling margin of victory (always assuming Rory gives Tiger a 30-foot putt for a half on the final hole of their singles match on Sunday).
Lawrence Donegan is the Guardian’s former golf correspondent. He is also author of the acclaimed book, Four Iron for the Soul, based on his experiences caddying for tour pro Ross Drummond. In the 1980s he was a bassist for the Bluebells and Lloyd Cole And The Commotions