Bunker Mentality

Ryder classic reminds us why we love it

Bunker Mentality

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It was the wettest match in living memory, it finished nearly
24 hours late, and it left thousands of fans fuming over ticketing rules... yet
still the 2010 Ryder Cup somehow managed to become one of the most thrilling golf
events of the last decade.

The breathtaking drama of the last couple of hours of play
on Monday somehow made all the problems of the week melt away.

First there was Tiger Woods producing the greatest stretch
of golf seen for years, with five birdies and two eagles in the space of nine
holes to keep the USA's hopes alive and show that he really does seem to be be coming
back to his best.

Then, we had the two great young guns on each side, Rory
McIlroy and Rickie Fowler, rescuing unlikely half points on the 18th green.

Finally, there was the event's piece de resistance as the
innate brilliance of the format converted what was threatening to become a one-sided
anti-climax into the most incredible ending to a Ryder Cup since Bernhard
Langer missed a six footer on the final green of the final match at Kiawah
Island back in 1991.

Europe came through as had seemed likely ever since their
stunning start to the last pairs matches on Saturday afternoon - but woah, they
made us sweat a bit first.

The genius of the Ryder Cup is based on a complicated recipe,
but when it works it produces sporting drama that thrills and enthrals like
nothing else.

The element of matchplay is the most important, since - assuming
players have roughly equal skill - it tends to reward aggressive play and
punish defensive tactics. Hence big leads tend to be eroded quickly as the
chasing side throw caution to the wind.

Then there is the nature of golf itself, whose protracted
nature allows tension to build for several minutes between shots. It's this
which creates drama that can last for hours, rather than the seconds or minutes
of most sporting spectacles.

Yet there's one more secret ingredient - and that is in the
make-up of the teams. There are many team match play events worldwide, though none
really grabs the imagination quite like the Ryder Cup.

And that's for the simple reason that none pits the old
world against the new quite so brazenly as golf's biennial showpiece. You might
like the EU or you might hate it, but BM bets you five euros that the only time
you ever truly feel European is during the three-day match in late September.

Or, as it has been this year, the four-day match in early
October.

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Amid all the cheering and drunkenness that will follow
Europe's inspiring victory, there will be three enormous sighs of relief
breathed in South Wales tonight.

First will be from the Welsh Tourist Board, whose worst
nightmare - a match dominated by wet weather - was all-but-completely forgotten
as the thrilling finale took place in stunning sunshine.

Second will be the custodians of the Ryder Cup itself, the
PGAs of America and Europe, and the European Tour. After three consecutive
routs, the Cup has been reinvigorated by the close match at Celtic Manor - and
anticipation ahead of the 2012 edition will surely start as soon as next week.

Finally, the biggest sigh of all will come from Colin
Montgomerie. It would be an exaggeration to say that Monty's entire reputation was
on the line this week, yet it's certainly fair to say that a loss on Welsh soil
would have done irreparable damage to his enduring legacy.

His career has seen him fall consistently short in Major
championships, but thrive in the cauldron of Ryder Cup golf - and you can't
help feeling that record of achievement would have been tarnished, as Nick
Faldo's was two years ago, if he had gone down as a losing Ryder Cup captain.

Monty said earlier this week that he'd love to come back and
qualify as a Ryder Cup player once more. It's a far-fetched dream, but BM for
one would love to see him silence his critics and pull off that feat.

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Shot of the week:
Peter Hanson's pitch from inside the limits of the water hazard on the 15th on
Sunday. From 30ft below the level of the green and with his American opponents
putting for eagles, the unheralded Swede's incredible flop shot landed four
feet from the hole to set up the birdie that kickstarted him and Miguel Angel
Jimenez to an unlikely win over Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton.

Scorecard of the week:
Tiger Woods, who was two down after three holes in his singles match against Francesco
Molinari before a sequence which saw him go birdie-par-birdie-par-par-birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie-par-birdie and from two down to 4&3 winner.

Pairing of the week: Luke
Donald and Lee Westwood's foursomes pairing that saw them destroy the
previously unbeaten pairing of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker during the last foursomes
match on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Five birdies and no bogeys in tough
conditions was an extraordinary return in the toughest format the game offers.
They were within a hole of matching the biggest ever Ryder Cup foursomes
victory margin, gave Tiger his biggest Ryder Cup defeat, and consigned the
Woods-Stricker partnership to its first defeat in 10 matches across Presidents
and Ryder Cup play.

Celebration of the
week:
Jeff Overton and Bubba Watson going bananas after Overton's astonishing
holed wedge shot at the 8th hole in the fourballs on Sunday. Incredibly,
Overton was within an inch of repeating the feat during his singles match on
Monday.

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