Taming the Ryder Cup rodeo
The Dodge Xtreme Bulls Tour (sponsored by B&W Trailer Hitches, no less) rodeo riding has become essential bedtime viewing for me this week.
It's got it all - excitement, skill, a bit of machismo, checked shirts and massive cowboy hats.
The bulls are real nasty beasts - bucking, kicking, writhing and snorting. And they've got cool names like Slaughter House, War Zone and Hell Fire. No one got gored last night, but the law of averages says it must happen quite a lot.
My only slight problem with the sport is that it seems, to my untrained eye at least, to be a bit of a lottery as to which bull you draw.
For instance, Swamp Donkey might be in one hell of a bad mood and send you instantly skywards one day, or he might just be a bit more chilled out for a competitor.
Everything they have done has been moving towards nailing down the first groups, which will be announced to the public during the opening ceremony at 1730 local time (2230 BST) on Thursday.
The skippers have studied, consulted, sought advice and trusted their instincts. Nothing will be left to chance.
Nick Faldo sent out four threeballs on Wednesday, based largely on national lines. But the same-country pairings are a bit old hat these days and I wouldn't read too much into these.
Far from a knockabout jaunt, though, practice is a serious business and was conducted in an atmosphere of calm concentration, each man trying variations on drives or approaches, before they dispersed to various corners of the green to putt and chip from different spots.
It emerged Faldo's groupings for Thursday were spotted on TV and he was forced to admit that Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood are likely to form a dream team, Padraig Harrington will partner Robert Karlsson, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter will continue the good pals' act, Graeme McDowell will play with Paul Casey, with some combination then of Oliver Wilson, Soren Hansen, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Henrik Stenson.
Of course, having been rumbled, Faldo may choose to redo these, but time is running out and he'll need to see them in action if these pairs are how he's thinking.
US skipper Paul Azinger, on the other hand, opted for the same fourball groupings that he sent out on Tuesday.
So, there was Phil Mickelson, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan in one bunch, Kenny Perry, JB Holmes, Jim Furyk and Boo Weekley in another and Chad Campbell, Steward Cink, Ben Curtis and Steve Stricker in the third.
Over the two days Azinger has jazzed around within the fours, but the pair of Mickelson and the spirited youngster Kim makes sense, the spiky Leonard and Mahan combo also sounds right, locals Perry and Holmes are a natural fit and so on.
Azinger did admit the pattern of his groups was no accident, though the Kentucky angle of Perry and Holmes out first on Friday could just be a bluff because it does have some danger attached. Lose, and cracks will appear in the US's home advantage.
Or should I say, more cracks. Just being on home soil is not enough - the local fans still want to be engaged by their team, and for all their bluster, the Americans are failing on that front.
On Wednesday morning, spotting some players emerging from the clubhouse to tee off, a US fan sniffed the air, narrowed his eyes in a very passable Clint Eastwood impression, and muttered "Euros". He might just as well have said "Navajo" and gobbed on the ground for good measure.
But by the end of the day, Faldo's men had won the hearts and minds by patiently signing everything thrust under their noses. You wouldn't have thought it would be too tough for these US multimillionaires to spend a bit of time with the fans that buy equipment, watch TV, go to tournaments and keep the whole bandwagon rolling. But the Americans as a team came off second best.
And this is not just me saying it. It's the vibe I've got from spending most of the day out and about at Valhalla. Take this tirade from another home supporter who watched Ian Poulter take 20 minutes to walk up the 30-yard slope from the practice putting green to the clubhouse because he was signing autographs and posing for photos.
"Man, that's awesome. These Euro guys are great. They're patient, they're kind, they're into it. They're working the crowd. Our own guys won't even do that. That's sad. I'm going to pull for the Europeans," he lamented loudly.
If you want to check out the authenticity of his quotes, he's the big guy in the shades, baseball hat, polo shirt (tucked in), chino shorts and trainers. You can't miss him.
But back to the pairings. More important than getting them right is not getting them wrong (ie Woods/Mickelson from 2004).
Because in most cases the bottom line will be individuals needing to play well.
Unlike for the cowboys, there will be no raging bull trying to throw them off. Just a stationary ball and a golf course to hit it around.
For some players, the crowd could prove to be their own personal "Hell Fire". But the Europeans have already gone some way to dousing those flames.