TV View: Hand grenade of brotherly love blows Europe to pieces

All efforts to charm the shouty home crowd unravel as Darren Clarke’s men face fire of fury

Partisan US fans cheer during the four balls on the first day of the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club on Friday. Photograph: David J Phillip/Inpho.

Partisan US fans cheer during the four balls on the first day of the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club on Friday. Photograph: David J Phillip/Inpho.

 

“I say it every two years,” David Livingstone reminded us, “there’s nothing like this in sport”. And on looking out the window over his shoulder it was a claim that could hardly be contested. It was 6.30 in the Minnesota morning and there were singing and dancing stars and stripy Vikings who appeared to be on acid and another group of persons dressed as the European flag hollering “Europe’s on fire, Davis Love is terrified, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na”.

It was hard not to imagine a consternated Peter Alliss back home throwing his snuff at the telly. But David saluted the ebullient crowd, telling us they embodied the spirit of the competition, at which point he put on his very serious face and denounced you know who.

“We’ve had Danny Willett’s brother embarrassing everyone but himself, apparently,” he said, Paul McGinley, Butch Harmon and Colin Montgomerie nodding gravely beside him.

David, then, felt that PJ Willett’s depiction of the Americans as “a baying mob of imbeciles”, “fat, stupid, greedy, classless, bastards” and “pudgy, basement-dwelling irritants” lacked a certain diplomacy, the only relief being that at least he hadn’t claimed all their wives looked the same.

His observation

“Paul McGinley embarrassing everyone but himself, apparently,” David opted not to say after yer man made his observation later, unsafe in the belief that no one could hear him while we watched a clip of a chat with Justin Rose. David moved on swiftly.

It was a rocky start to Day One, then, and it almost culminated in Monty punching Nick Dougherty at the touchscreen, so angry was he over the suggestion that America’s driving distances are longer.

“There’s a lot of talk about the Americans being longer than us, THEY’RE NOT! So let’s get on with it and STOP this business about America being longer,” he said, standing in front of the Sky graphic that showed the Americans are longer.

There probably aren’t many of us who would get so emotional about driving distances, but you know Monty when it comes to this Ryder Cup thing, he emotes a great deal. Paul does too, and, like Monty, is very big into details, as he demonstrated when he told us that Jordan Spieth had walked “120 yards” to say hello to the crowd.

Time for a quick word with some of the rookies, including Andy Sullivan who was asked what his thoughts would be before he struck his first Ryder Cup ball. “I think it’ll just be remembering to breathe,” he said, hinting at a tummy full of butterflies. That didn’t augur well.

“Let’s get it on,” howled Butch, and off we went, although you feared if that fog didn’t lift Ewen Murray’s commentary would be along the lines of “sorry, I can’t see a bloody thing either”.

It evaporated, though, and come the conclusion of the foursomes there were those who sensed Europe’s hopes had gone the same way: 0-4.

The mood among the Sky team was funereal – and the consensus in the studio was pretty much that it was all one man’s fault: Danny’s brother.

Paul explained that “a big part of the captain’s strategy is how to deal with the away crowd, they’re very shouty”, so you try and quieten them by being nice to them, signing autographs and the like. Darren Clarke was, he said, doing “a wonderful job” on this particular front, but then Danny’s brother threw this “hand grenade” of an article in to the mix and “it unravelled a lot of what they did and stoked up the fire a little bit . . . it had a big effect on the European psyche”.

More shots

Any way, the Americans were chuffed, not least an emotional Zach Johnson who paid tribute to his partner Jimmy Walker. “Our games are the furthest thing from similar, but our hearts are,” he said, and Jimmy almost dissolved. Their wife probably did too.

Back again to the studio and Paul was hailing the task force that the Americans set up which had resulted in a “very organised structured approach” and a plan that was evidently working. (Is Ryder Cup captain speak the mother of all guff-a-rama? Just asking.).

“It’s hard to read what Darren’s plan is,” Paul added, “I’m looking forward to seeing it this afternoon.”

Drive around in a buggy and hope to see his fellas take fewer shots to put the ball in the hole than their lads?

Which is kind of what happened.

The plan looked to be taking shape, then. And not even Danny’s brother’s hand grenade could blow it up.

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