Roll up, roll up as Ryder Cup circus takes over once again – Nick Rodger

No? Well, you should be able to, because it’s being wafted in by great big industrial-sized excitement generating turbines.

Yes, the grand old transatlantic tussle is here again and you’ve only got three more days of preview mumbo jumbo to wade through before all this exhausting, media-driven chin-stroking, pondering, pontificating and predicting mercifully gets overtaken by some actual bloomin’ golf.

This biennial phoney war should be accompanied by a series of crackling wireless broadcasts from Churchill.

But that’s the Ryder Cup in the modern era. It’s surely the most over-analysed event in golf as all and sundry pore over every morsel of minutiae like a museum curator carefully examining a prehistoric shard of flint.

Captains, vice-captains, wild card picks, non-picks, potential pairings, course set-up, team-room ambience, soaring oratory, sartorial decisions concerning cardigans or gilets for the foursomes, the role of the wives and girlfriends . . . You name it, somebody has talked about it. And at great length.

Over a weekend in Wisconsin, Padraig Harrington and Steve Stricker, the respective skippers of Europe and the USA, will career about on a buggy, fiddling with an earpiece and whispering into a walkie-talkie. 

HeraldScotland: Padraig Harrington - the UK Ryder Cup captainPadraig Harrington – the UK Ryder Cup captain

Under the remorseless gaze of drooling analysts, the chatter and critiques will focus in on what those captains do or don’t do while the 24 players involved will no doubt do things that the captains will not want them to do but will do it anyway because the very nature of golf means that you can easily do things you don’t mean to do even though you’re trying your best to do the things you want to do and not the things you don’t want to do. Got it?

Experts have looked at all manner of statistics, facts and historical data while a Ryder Cup predict-ometer, a cutting edge contraption of clanking pistons, birling cogs and chuff-chuffs of steam, has absorbed all of this intelligence and spewed out potential results.

Of course, amid the unpredictable ebb and flow of matchplay golf acted out in a pressure cooker atmosphere, a lot of those statistics, facts and bits of data can get tossed out of the clubhouse window.

The Ryder Cup is a different ball game. “Don’t worry about bogeys,” Graeme McDowell once said.

“Don’t even worry too much about pars. You’ve got to make birdies or you’re going to lose. It’s matchplay. And it’s very aggressive matchplay.”

Everybody and their auntie will probably be aware that the US have eight of the world’s top-10 in their team. The average ranking is 8.9 for the USA and 29.6 for Europe but that won’t concern Harrington. Back in 2004, for instance, Europe had just one player in the world’s top-10 and they slaughtered the USA by an 18 ½ – 9 ½ margin.

Sometimes, though, the overall scoreline doesn’t reflect the nip-and-tuck nature of the match. In that 2004 contest, 11 of the 28 ties over the three days went to the 18th and Europe plundered a profitable 8½ points from those tight exchanges. 

In the epic showdown at Medinah in 2012, meanwhile, 12 games were decided on the last with Europe taking 9½ points to edge to a 14½ – 13½ victory. It’s always been a game of fine margins and those little half-point to point swings on the last can be enormous over the course of the entire event.

Who knows how affairs will unravel this weekend but, as somebody somewhere once mumbled, “when it’s all said and done, that’s when the talking has to stop.” Come Friday, the actual process of man hitting ball will finally take centre stage. Thank goodness for that.

AND ANOTHER THING

There’s no getting away from Emma Raducanu is there? Look, there she is in your rear-view mirror as you try in vain to get away from her. Flippancy aside, the teenage tennis star has been rightly lauded for her wonderful US Open win recently and the coverage across all mediums has been through the roof. 

HeraldScotland: Emma Raducanu with the US Open titleEmma Raducanu with the US Open title

Many of us in the golf scene have asked the usual question; would a British female golfer attract the same amount of gushing reverence if she won a major? And the answer would be no.  

Come the end of the year, the BBC’s largely pointless Sports Personality of The Year bash will no doubt be a night of bended-knee Emma eulogising and not much else. Remember when Georgia Hall won the Women’s Open in 2018? She got a lamentable 10 second mention from a patronising Gary Linker before they moved on to netball.

Staying with this championing of tennis, even our esteemed First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, got all giddy about Raducanu’s win with a series of excitable social media posts. A week earlier, one of Scotland’s greatest golfers, Catriona Matthew, captained Europe to an historic Solheim Cup victory but, in an online age when politicians are quick to jump on any sporting bandwagon that rumbles along, I didn’t see anything from Ms Sturgeon. 

A decorated ambassador from the home of the game leading a European union to glory? I thought that would’ve been right up the First Minister’s street. Golf, it seems, just doesn’t tickle the fancy.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992