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More Schekels than Stamina

Ryder Cup players return to a packed schedule

Posted Oct 08, 2012 by Dermot Gilleece

mcilroy

Such were the physical and mental demands of the Ryder Cup at Medinah, that only three members of the European team could bring themselves to compete in the Dunhill Links.  Which might prompt some curiosity as to how this compares with follow-up commitments on the last time Europe fought from behind to secure victory in the US.  

That, as it happened, was in 1995 at Oak Hill in upper New York State.  And on the following week, 11 of the winning heroes were in action in the inaugural Smurfit European Open at The K Club, where the only absentee was Nick Faldo, who was going through a divorce from his second wife, Gill, at the time.  The K Club line-up also included Tom Lehman from the beaten American team, just as Dustin Johnson made the journey to St Andrews.

So, what do these comparative figures really tell us?  We can take it that the physical and mental demands were, indeed, surmountable, given that victory in the European Open went to Bernhard Langer, a member of the winning Ryder Cup line-up.  Indeed team members survived the ordeal so well that no fewer than a further five of them managed to finish in the top-20, which also contrasts sharply with performances by the few who made it to the Dunhill Links.  

There, highest finisher among the Medinah heroes was, interestingly, a German.  But in a share of 34th place, Martin Kaymer was not in the same league as his fellow countryman was, 17 years ago.

One indication of markedly changed times was the view from the Northern Ireland duo, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, that, in future, the Ryder Cup should count as a qualifying event for tour membership on both sides of the Atlantic. Therein lies the crux of the problem.  From a situation back in 1995 when very few European players were actively engaged on the PGA Tour in the US, the majority of the current crop attempt to maintain commitments on both sides of the pond.

And with so many lucrative, end-of-season events to attract them over the coming weeks, time is precious.  For instance, involvement in the Dunhill Links would have meant four successive weeks of action for McIlroy, who played in the American Tour Championship in Atlanta before going on to the Ryder Cup and is committed this week to the inaugural Turkish Airlines World Golf Finals in Turkey.  

It is also revealing that this week’s non-sanctioned event ends on Friday, so as not to interfere with the final two rounds of the Portugal Masters in Europe.

Yet the Turkish development cannot be construed as negative from a European Tour perspective.  It is understood that as a spin-off, we will see the inaugural staging of the Turkish Open on next season’s European schedule, as that country makes a determined bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games.

Still, iron-man Langer seemed to manage.  Having beaten Barry Lane in a play-off for the European Open, he headed the following week for the Mercedes German Masters in Berlin, where he finished runner-up to Anders Forsbrand.   Indeed another survivor of Oak Hill, Per-Ulrik Johansson, claimed a share of fourth place in Germany having being tied 19th at The K Club.   So, one is tempted to conclude that current scheduling by the leading players has more to do with shekels than stamina.  Incidentally, it is fascinating to note that third place in the 1995 European Open was shared by Colin Montgomerie and America’s Jay Townsend, both of whom are more familiar on the other side of the television cameras these days.

And for the record, that particular event was also notable for marking the European Tour debut of Padraig Harrington.  In fact he had the distinctly disquieting experience of discovering on the eve of the tournament that the Ping sandwedge he had used to splendid effect as an amateur, was illegal in professional ranks, because of its square grooves.  So, a replacement had to be found at the eleventh hour.  In the event, Harrington missed the cut and was ultimately forced to go to the Qualifying School at San Roque two months later, when he claimed a Tour by finishing 16th.  And hasn’t looked back since, you might say.

- Dermot Gilleece

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