Pádraig Harrington’s genius cheese strategy at Ryder Cup fails to cover the holes

TV View: Team Europe captain displays more than a little patience as US power ahead

Team Europe wears cheeseheads on the first tee during a practice day at the Ryder Cup at the Whistling Straits Golf Course in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, US. Photograph: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Team Europe wears cheeseheads on the first tee during a practice day at the Ryder Cup at the Whistling Straits Golf Course in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, US. Photograph: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

 

Day one at Whistling Straits and even if you have the flag of Europe tattooed on your bottom you’d have to have had at least a crumb of empathy for Team USA! USA! in light of the pressure they were under as the 43rd Ryder Cup teed off, with failure likely to result in super snappy headlines like “Europe’s Sultans of Swing leave Yanks in Dire Straits”.

“Defeat,” said the Golf Channel’s Jaime Diaz quite gravely, “would be a renunciation of the taskforce”, which sounded to us like he was talking about the optics of that withdrawal from Afghanistan, rather than a golf tussle between men in bad outfits.

But, as we know by now, that’s the kind of lingo used for these Ryder Cup ding-dongs, Jamie’s colleague Paige Mackenzie suggesting that “in this arena, golfers become gladiators” not long before Ian Poulter tweeted a clip of himself as Braveheart, pointing his bow and arrow, quite menacingly, at the English enemy, even though Ian’s from Hitchin in Hertfordshire.

Braveheart, aka William Wallace, was hung, drawn and quartered in the end, which might have been what Pádraig Harrington wanted to do to Ian after he and Rory McIlroy went five down after five holes in their morning foursome.

But Pádraig’s been a picture of perkiness thus far, displaying no little patience either, not least when he was interviewed by Nischelle Turner during the opening ceremony.

Nischelle: “Pad-rage, we can all feeeeeeeel this energy, you can feeeeeeeel the energy in this place, riiiiiiiiight?”

Pad-rage: “Eh.”

Nischelle: “Absoluuuuuuutely, it’s electric!”

By then, of course, Pad-rage had his players turning up at the course wearing cheeseheads, a genius strategic move, said the Golf Channel folk, leaving them wondering if it would result in the home crowd warming to Yurp.

But when Jon Rahm and Sergio García arrived for the first foursome of the day: “Boooooooo.”

And when Lee Westwood teed off some time later: “GO IN THE WATER!”

Those cheeseheads were soon forgotten.

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But having told his lads that 557 people had made it into space but only 164 had represented Yurp in the Ryder Cup, Pad-rage would have well and truly driven home the magnitude of the occasion to his team and the achievement of just being there, Shane Lowry possibly adding to those motivational stats by pointing out that “only two Offaly teams have won the Under-20 All-Ireland football title – and the second was only last month!” That would have got Bernd Wiesberger fired up.

Admittedly, some of us feel like total golfing blow-ins at Ryder Cup time, having never watched, say, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, only Leona Maguire and the golf majors. So when the Golf Channel, brought to us by their “partners” Sky, analysed Viktor Hovland’s grip – “colour: white, size: 58R standard, logo: up; one-wrap double-sided tape” – we actually thought they were talking about bra sizes.

So, a lot of it is a mystery to us bandwagoners, like how Rahm has an accent that makes him sound like he was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, how Ryder Cup captains have five times more vice-captains than Joe Biden has vice-presidents, and how golfers’ foreheads are almost as white as the crowds who attend the Ryder Cup.

And how someone thought it was a good idea to play Born in the USA over the speakers on the first tee ahead of kick-off when it’s a tune about a Vietnam War veteran who ends up destitute on his return home to the US because no one will give him work.

Sound advice

No matter, mistakes happen. It could also have been worse; they could have chosen, say, The Clash’s hit-parade topper I’m So Bored With The USA, which might, come to think of it, have echoed Brooks Koepka’s feelings about representing his country in this competition. “Move up Starsky/For the CIA/Suck on Kojak/For the USA.” You can just picture him singing along.

Anyway, the foursomes were tremendous, the highlights being Jordan Spieth nearly ending up in Lake Michigan after playing a shot at the 17th that shouldn’t have been humanly possible, and the sight of a Tricolour-waving spectator wearing a Galway Supermac’s shirt. “There’s Ireland,” said Robert Lee, “I don’t know how they got in – every Ryder Cup they seem to be there, managing to get their way through border controls.”

Rory gave them nothing to cheer, though, in the morning. “You feared it’d be the dog licence, something like seven and six,” said Sky’s Ewen Murray as Rory and Braveheart headed for a stuffing by Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, rallying to just lose by 5&3 in the end.

Pre-decimalisation, apparently, Ewen paid seven shillings and sixpence for his dog licence. Is it any wonder us blow-ins are confused?

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