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Preparing for Valhalla

Graham McMillan | 10:37 UK time, Monday, 15 September 2008

I don't know about you, but the Ryder Cup is my favourite sporting event of the lot.

While the Cheltenham Festival is full of triumph and heartache, a Test match is filled with nuance and intrigue, and the Olympics is sporting excellence personified, the Ryder Cup is a combination of all of that and more.

It grabs you by the throat on a cool Friday morning and doesn't let go until dusk on the Sunday evening; three days of unremitting pressure, drama and skill that can be won by the smallest of margins and lost by the slightest mistake.

Team against team, continent against continent and with iconic sporting heroes going toe-to-toe, I can't wait for it to get started.

My job here is not to preview the competition as such, but I want to give you a bit of a look at what goes into bringing one of the world's biggest sporting events to your radios every two years.

This will be the third Ryder Cup I've worked on for 5 Live, the second as its main producer.

The planning for this year's event began from my point of view on that final afternoon at the K Club in 2006. I say planning, perhaps more like a few thoughts about what we could have done better in Ireland coupled with the knowledge that Andrew Cotter's fabulous commentary on Darren Clarke's winning moment - "The Ryder Cup is safe in European arms" - would be the clip we begin with two years later.

Darren Clarke

I visited Valhalla in April after the Masters to have a look round. There were two purposes to the trip.

First to meet with the PGA to go through how things would work, discuss where our studios would be, where our production vans would go and their plans for the competition as a whole.

Second because it is important to see at first hand how flat the course is, where the trees are and where there are sight lines so we can judge how our on course equipment will work. The more trees and hills there are on a course, the more difficult it is to broadcast (reports ahead of Celtic Manor in 2010 suggest we may need hiking equipment to deal with the humps and hollows there).

We also got a chance to look round the city of Louisville itself - it struck me as having a very small centre - only a few bars and restaurants - and it is quite difficult to imagine thousands of fans taking it over.

That's the other thing about these "site visits", it is hard to fast forward in your mind six months to what the scene will be like when you next see it, a couple of days before the Ryder Cup starts.

In April it was just another very nice golf course with one or two people going about their business. In September, it is the centre of the sporting world.

The next step is putting our team together.

The 5 Live golf team is lucky to have so many good commentators at our disposal. Our correspondent Iain Carter, John Murray, Mark Pougatch and Alistair Bruce-Ball will be our on course team and next week it will be great to welcome back Andrew Cotter and Paul Eales from BBC TV.

We're also fortunate to be able to call on the services of a man with almost unparalleled experience - former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher.

His thoughts on what will be going through Nick Faldo's mind during the ups and downs of the week will be invaluable to us, as will the experience of Andrew Coltart who knows what it is like to go head-to-head with Tiger in the final day's singles.

Nick Faldo

Andrew Magee will be our new American voice. He won four times on the PGA tour and is now a leading commentator on US TV.

Interesting fact about Andrew? He's the only man to have holed in one on a par 4 in a PGA tour event.

You may ask what's happened to our regular analyst Jay Townsend. Well, he will no doubt pop up during our coverage, but he works for US TV during the Ryder Cup.

After we've done that there are various technical things to sort out like picking the theme music.

I've gone with a piece you may recognise if you were fortunate enough to go to any matches in the Rugby World Cup last year - an orchestral version of Jean Michel Jarre track, "Industrial Revolutions".

We also need to work out how the Ryder Cup fits into a busy weekend of sport on 5 Live, which includes Chelsea against Manchester United.

Then it's trying to deal with the unexpected! What do I mean? Well only a few days ago we got the bad news that the longest serving member of the 5 Live Golf team, Andrew
Murray, has had to withdraw from our coverage this year because of a knee injury - we all wish Andrew a speedy recovery.

Equally, I thought we had done all the preparation we could at the K Club two years ago, then the tail end of Hurricane Gordon hit Ireland the night before it started, knocking down trees on the course and generally causing mayhem with our equipment.

We went on air on the first morning with no idea how much of the course we could broadcast from! You may have heard there's the odd hurricane about in the States right now, though I'm assured none of them will be anywhere near Louisville.

I'll give you an update on how we're doing when we get there, but everything seems to be in place. Apart from the fact I was told some of our on course transmitters are currently in New Zealand. But I'm sure they will be here in time!


  • Comment number 1.

    What is it about the Ryder Cup that makes it attract Hurricanes the week before the event? Looks like Ike didn't do too much damage anyhow.

    I can't wait for it to kick off now, the anger that I felt over not picking Clarke has subsided, now I just want to see Sergio and the boys outplay the yanks yet again and give them a damn good thrashing!

  • Comment number 2.

    your right about the b.b.c. commentators but ever since sky took it off the screens I dont give a monkeys for it now

  • Comment number 3.

    Hello Graham, excellent blog, really interesting stuff, just the type of thing I find interesting.

    Can't wait for the Ryder Cup, the coverage on Five Live is radio at its best. I agree its one of the sporting highlights of the year, such exciting drama non-stop for three days.

    I'm pleased to hear Andrew Cotter and Paul Eales are back in the Five Live team for this event.

    I'm dissapointed by both Jay Townsend and Andrew Murray's absences this year. When will you be able to tell us who is replacing him?

    I would like Maureen Madill to do a Paul Eales and return to Five Live or is she working on the BBC telly highlights?

  • Comment number 4.

    I am really looking forward to the golf and your coverage this weekend. One question why aren't you using Alan Green as commentator? I always enjoyed his golf commentry as much as football and rowing

    Hope you gear arrives from NZ!!

  • Comment number 5.

    I think the Ryder Cup will have to come second to the Football on Saturday and Sunday.
    I think Five Live Sports Extra should be utilised, you use it for Test Match Cricket.
    Still its Friday when it should be the main sport on Five Live, as it will be the main focus.
    Shame like Golf, the whole competiton is squashed into a weekend, yet many other competitons like Wimbeldon are stretched over a week, I think many Golf tournaments should ditch the 'lets squash it into a weekend' focus and start think about spreading it over a week.

  • Comment number 6.

    Jsut one point of clarification. It is not a contest between 2 continents. The USA is only part of the continent of North America. To represent the continent then Canadians and Mexicans would need to be included.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Really looking forward to this years event. Seems to get better every two years and with Faldo and Zinger at it toe-to-toe it looks like it'll be back to the Brookline days.

    Each to their own but for me The Cheltenham Festival is unsurpassed. That said it has been diluted by moving from three days to four (Ryder Cup Committee, please keep it as it is). That said, three days of fantastic golf is round the corner.

    The only thing I'm not looking forward to are the yankee shouts of "get in the hole" on the par 4 first (and throughout)!

  • Comment number 10.

    David - a belated response to comment three on behalf of Graham, who is running around getting stuff set up at the mo...

    He tells me that Andrew Magee will be bringing the US persective this time around. "We're sure you'll like him" he says.

    As for Alan Green (isdxman, comment four), I'm afraid he chose to focus on football (as well as rowing at the Beijing Games) six years ago when he moved away from golf.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    I don't get why the BBC are talking about "placing cameras" Surely they just take the pictures from Sky's LIVE coverage for their highlights?

  • Comment number 13.

    is this blog some sort of joke?

    Honestly the way the site visits are being discussed anyone would think the BBC have exclusive TV rights. Er no you don't!

    I can't actually see many people wanting to watch highlights of the Ryder Cup (especially considering they are not on until nearly midnight) and anyway the only interest is following events as they unfold live.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm not even sure if the 'Cheltenham Festival' is the best sporting festival in Cheltenham, let alone the 2nd best sporting event of the lot.

  • Comment number 15.

    Azinger 1 Faldo 0
    I've just listened to the Captains' opening speeches. Azinger dignified and succinct. Faldo - long-winded, meandering and rather embarrassing. Did we really need to hear so much about all the members of his family - their careers etc. His quips about the players on the European team were corny. Even some of them looked embarrassed. Oh dear - come on Nick, I admired you as a player - but you can do better than this...

  • Comment number 16.

    Er wake up Steveo 77 (#13) most of us do not actually have access to SKY Sports and therefore will be reliant on BBC tv and radio.

    For #12 I guess we are all taking the host broadcaster's pictures supplemented by the rights holder's own presentation. Whilst I will not being staying up til nearly midnight I will, however, be enjoying some of the repeated next day highlights and I assume the BBC's highlights will be viewed by many more than will, ironically, watch the live coverage on SKY.

  • Comment number 17.

    Like 1 or 2 other people on this board Cheltenham is my favourite sporting event of the year but the Ryder Cup pushes it close. However much though I enjoy 5 Live you can't beat the live pictures so it's Sky for me this weekend. Oh and whoever said that the Cheltenham Festival isn't even the best sporting festival in Cheltenam doesn't know much about what makes a great sporting event.

  • Comment number 18.

    Maybe steveo #13 you should read the blogs before commenting on them!

    Its a blog by the Five Live producer about the extensive live coverage of the event.

    Alex #10 - thanks for the reply. But I didn't make it clear, I was asking who would be replacing Andrew Murray on the coverage, so far no one, Ali Bruce-Ball is alone in the commentary box.

  • Comment number 19.

    Why is the BBC saying that the Ryder Cup is being held in Valhalla, Kentucky? Valhalla Golf Club is in the city of Louisville.
    For those visitors to the 'Ville (pronounced loo-uh vull, smash the loo and the uh together) stuck in 4th Street Live, get thee to Bardstown Road. Grab some barbeque at Mark's Feed Store. (I recommend the pork sandwich with the cole slaw; put the slaw on the sandwich. Trust me.) Head over to Flanagan's, and the Europeans can commiserate with the Kentuckians (you're sad about being down after day 1, we're sad about our two guys going in the pond).


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