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The rhythms of golf

Rob Hodgetts | 20:15 UK time, Saturday, 20 September 2008

There are few better ways to spend a Saturday, or any other day for that matter, than watching the Ryder Cup unveil in front of your eyes.

Around Valhalla's par-three 8th hole (known as Thor's Hammer), at 0920 on the morning of Saturday 20 September, expectant fans have filled the "bleacher" to capacity and are standing six deep inside the ropes behind the green.

The nearest of the foursomes groups is still several holes away and the crowd hums with expectation, savouring the tree-lined spot beside the stream of Floyd's Fork.

poultereight438.jpgA ripple of applause breaks out as a score changes in the US's favour.

And at 0941 the first match hoves into view on the tee, 180 yards away across a shallow chasm.

The fans in the grandstand sit up and take notice, while those standing behind the ropes dodge and weave to make sure of their view.

English tyro Ian Poulter fires first into the grey Kentucky sky, while Stewart Cink goes long for the US.

An advertising blimp buzzes overhead and the serenity of the scene is further punctured by the rush of cameramen, radio guys, officials and hangers-on, who flood the green's surroundings like a SWAT team.

The spectators seize the first chance to open their lungs and a "USA, USA" breaks out amid more general cheering. Poulter salutes his brethren with a raised fist.

Paul Casey's caddie Craig "Wee Man" Connelly turns up on a buggy and confides, "I'm here to give it a bit of ra-ra for the boys."

Chad Campbell, in brown slacks and a dark blue stripy shirt, chips from the back of the green and the ball hits the pin.

England's Justin Rose, in an aquamarine top with white stripes and off-white cricket flannels, putts next and Cink seals a half.

Poulter and Rose turn on their heels and walk straight off, still five up. At close range, Poulter has the 1,000-yard stare of a man on a mission.

The Americans trudge off to supportive cries, and Connelly bolts to find out if he will be needed in the afternoon.

A temporary peace returns, conversations are renewed and smoke drifts lazily up from the nearby concession stand.

A few minutes pass before the easy-to-spot Europeans arrive on the tee. Graeme McDowell hits his drive pin-high, while Hunter Mahan is five feet past for the Americans.


The crowd are warming up and welcome the balls in, while a US fan screams "Hoe down".

The media circus filters invades our patch once again as Miguel Angel Jimenez and McDowell, or "Gmac", inspect their putt. McDowell's caddie Ken Comboy chats to Justin Leonard's man. Is this traitorous?

Mrs Kenny Perry walks past with another American WAG and their perfume lingers in the air behind them.

A huge cheer erupts from the 9th green before McDowell putts and misses. He shakes his head and blow out his cheeks.

Leonard stalks his putt and the other three players stand in identical poses, one hand on hip, one leg crossed in front of other, leaning on their putters.

Leonard holes to rapturous roars and the Americans touch fists. "Gmac" purses his lips and Jimenez pats him on the back as they walk off, now only one up.

Almost instantly, US superstar Phil Mickelson appears back on the tee.

Europe's Henrik Stenson fires over the pin to about 15ft. "Stay on, stay on, stay on," implores a Scotsman in the gallery.


Mickelson's partner Anthony Kim finds a bunker short of the green to disbelieving groans.

The players are treated to an earth-shattering roar as they approach. Mickelson heads into the sand and Stenson and debutant partner Oliver Wilson set to work surveying their putt.

Mickelson's head is just visible above the parapet of the bunker. A snapper's zoom whirs as he focuses in on the American. Mickelson splashes his ball out and a whole battery of camera shutters fires.

A portly NBC cameraman waddles into a fresh position, while Mickelson applies lip salve as he waits for the Europeans to putt.

Wilson makes his stroke but stands up straight away and holds his hand out to the right as if to say, "Why don't you break?"

Mickelson's caddie Jim "Bones" McKay spits and the Europeans retreat to the back of the green to see their captain Nick Faldo who has appeared as if by magic.

Their three is conceded and Leonard misses. The Europeans stride off with renewed hope at two down.

The SWAT team hustles off to leave a TV cameraman, who looks like the late racing driver James Hunt, as a lone sentry.

The hubbub dies away again but the sound of a plane pulling a huge Texas Roadhouse banner provides a background beat.

The next match is lagging behind and conversations last longer before the giant Swede Robert Karlsson hoves into view.

He goes through his familiar shoulders-back routine before firing to the left edge of the green. A low chorus of "ooooh" emanates from the crowd as the ball gently rolls back towards the hole.

Kenny Perry hits to the same spot but his ball bounces forward. A phalanx of green-bibbed photographers scuttles up the right edge of the fairway. Kentuckian Perry gets the second largest cheer of the day after Mickelson and Kim and offers his fans a lazy right-hand in reply.

Padraig Harrington is singled out with cries of "C'mon Padraig". On the green the Irishman stalks his putt while talking to caddie Ronan Flood over his shoulder.

To hear his master's voice, Flood, weighed down by the golf bag, shuffles along behind him like Uriah Heep.

Flood and Karlsson's caddie look on impassively, eating chocolate bars, as American Jim Furyk leaves his putt short. Cue groans.

A man in a blue blazer adopts an unfeasibly wide-legged stance in front of the green, angering several spectators behind the ropes.

Harrington's putt misses by inches and he turns away in anguish. Perry picks up the ball and lobs it to him. Flood is still eating.

Perry makes his par and the show moves off with the US pair still two up.

Instantly, the scrum behind the ropes melts into the ether and the grandstand empties.

The smoke still billows from the kitchen of the food stand in the woods and peace returns to this quiet corner of Kentucky. For a few hours at least.


  • Comment number 1.


    I appreciate all the updates but I am so disappointed that I cannot watch it!!! I think it is farcical that for an event like the Ryder cup which highlights the fact that no one is getting paid to play that it is not available for all to watch.

    Simply gutted.


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