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Bridging the golf
by Asa Butcher
2006-10-04 11:33:22
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It is a common belief that you must either hate or love golf, but I realised last week that there is a comfortable middle ground. Last week the 36th Ryder Cup between Team Europe and Team USA concluded at The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare in Ireland, and, to my amazement, I was hooked to all three days of the competition.

I can't play golf and I have never had any interest in the sport, but as my brother patiently answered all my questions and the Sky Sports commentators explained the rest I slowly became inexplicably captivated. At every tee shot and 15-foot putt, my respect for golfers increased, especially when play continued in the pouring rain and the caddies marched diligently through the mud with 15 clubs and a leather bag on their backs - those are some big umbrellas, by the way.

ovi_golf02The Ryder Cup, for those who don't know, is a golf competition held every two years between twelve of America's best golfers and a dozen of Europe's elite. It is one of a few golfing tournaments that has a team format and has three types of matches over three days. The tournament begins with eight foursomes matches, which is a competition between two teams of two that take alternate shots throughout the match with the same ball. A fourball match is similar, but all four golfers play their own ball throughout the round, and the final day concludes with twelve singles matches.

There is very little more you need to know because the scoring is simply who won the hold, i.e., the lowest number of shots, and the winner of the round gets a point for winning and half for a tie. These points are added together over the three days play and, naturally, the winner is the team with the most points, which was Europe this year (18½ to 9½) and for a record-breaking third time in a row.

Whether it was due to Sky Sports excellent coverage or the style of the Ryder Cup, the contest was never boring. Cameras jumped from green to green, following each shot one after the other, creating an exciting atmosphere as the players made their way round the 18-holes. There was an excellent camaraderie between the Europeans and they always seemed to be smiling, joking and looking incredibly relaxed, while the Americans looked serious, focused and occasionally grimacing.

You couldn't blame the Americans negative emotions as they stood watching Ian Woosnam's team stomp their balls into the mud. Colin Montgomerie led the charge with his larger-than-life persona and popularity, plus a jaw-dropping piece of luck as his ball bounced on the water hazard rocks and ricocheted back onto the green. However, it was Paul Casey's match-winning hole-in-one that stunned the watching crowds and TV audience on the 14th hole to seal a 5 & 4 (five shots up and four holes left, if you want to know!).

ovi_golf03Cheering a united Europe team was a little strange at first, but it was made all the easier by watching the unbridled skill of the two Spaniards, José María Olazábal and Sergio Garcia, who were so modest and understated during their interviews it made you like them even more - "I just hit it and it somehow landed on the green." You had to feel sympathy for Tiger Woods who seemed thoroughly baffled by the whole experience and it was reflected though the first two matches, although the home crowd did pay their respect whenever he trooped past.

My full conversion to golf is still a distance away. This is partly due to a limited access to good terrestrial television coverage of any tournament in Finland and the fear that the next match could be disappointing. I will certainly tune in for the 2008 Ryder Cup in Kentucky, USA, but the purchase of a putter and a 1 wood would put me well under par with my wife.
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Nick Faldo2006-10-03 10:58:34

Sand2006-10-03 13:29:01
Many years ago a friend of my mother generously invite me to play a game with him. I seemed to have good control of the balland made a few good long drives. When we had played through most of the links the guy asked me how many strokes I had made. "Gee",I answered, "Are you supposed to count them?" This made him rather unhappy and I never was asked to play another game. Since then, throughout my life, I never found it worthwhile to count my strokes.

Asa2006-10-03 13:37:36
Sounds like you should play a round with Thanos. He is one for playing the game rather than keeping score...I'm sure he will leave his comment at some point!

Sand2006-10-03 13:44:40
That notable game took place on Staten Island about 70 years ago. My wife is an aficionado and plays every free day but I have neither equipment nor spare cash for what she assures me is an expensive recreation.

Thanos2006-10-08 11:52:04
It is true and sad the same time that a sport (I still think it is a sport) has become a thing of the few and the rich. To make it worst most of them don’t do it for the golf but just to show their money!!! Unfortunately in Finland is even worst. A couple of years ago I found my self in a golf court where nearly anybody was perfectly dressed for golf, obviously having spend a lot of money in clothes and equipment and they had …no idea at all about golfing!!!

And yes I do hate all this counting points. I enjoy a game and for me is a good chance to walk a few kilometers without feeling doing so.

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