Countdown to the Ryder Cup September 2016

It’s hard to believe the Ryder Cup is nearly upon us. We seem to wish away the time in between this biannual event and suddenly it’s again on our television screens, on the radio, the talk of the town. We live and breathe every shot, we feel the pain and anguish of missed points and missed putts and jump with delight at what is one of the greatest spectacles of sport on the planet. It’s hard to describe to non golf fans what this means to us the golfing public. For three days everything is put aside, up and down the country the TV doesn’t change channels, sofas are heated with bottoms that don’t move and debate over pairing selection.

‘We literally do nothing but watch golf for three days!’ Caroline told me this while staying with her up at Royal Troon for the Open Championship. ‘Everyone does the same!’ Caroline and Ken looked after a few of us during the Open in July and my goodness what a grand job they did. Their beautiful house was a stone’s throw from the iconic golf course, Royal Troon, beautiful food cooked for us every night mixed with hilarious conversation. Beemer, Coltart, Nick and I absolutely loved it. Caroline and Ken are an example of what so many will be doing come 30th September. The world awaits that first tee shot.

There’s been so much build up and I’ve been privileged to have been a part of it. At Wentworth on 31st August I was there to interview Darren Clarke over his three wild card selections. Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters. Obvious choices. Westwood for his incredible experience (this his 10th RC), presence in the team room, leadership qualities and don’t forget an impressive runners’ up spot at the Masters this year. Kaymer due to recent form, previous experience (this his 4th RC) and you can simply pair him with pretty much anyone. Thomas Pieters made everyone stand up and take notice by producing results that simply couldn’t be ignored. Fourth, second, first in his three events prior to selection, plus playing with the Captain the week he won, producing a round of 62. Darren admitted it’s one of the finest rounds of 62 he’d ever seen. Pieters pretty much replicated the achievements of Edoardo Molinari who made an incredible run of it in the summer of 2010 and forced Captain Monty to pick him. Edoardo was Colin’s sixth rookie, Thomas is Darren’s sixth. Should we be concerned with the amount of rookies in the team? Definitely not. These rookies are ‘extra special’ as Paul McGinely told me last week at a golf day in Marlow. We have Danny Willett the Masters champion amongst them, players like Rafa Cabrera Bello who have produced outstanding results in America this year, plus multiple winners who have beaten stellar fields over the last couple of years.

Di Dougherty and Darren Clarke

The team room dynamic is so crucial and getting the right atmosphere, information across at specific times and reiterating key messages at appropriate points is key, Paul told me. He had this planned down to the finest detail as we all know. Thomas Pieters will certainly add an extra dimension with his humour and cheekiness. Just before the press conference at Wentworth announcing the wild cards he texted Darren to ask ‘Are you nervous?’ The room chuckled with laughter when Darren told us. These moments of light heartedness can be key in a week full of pressure at the highest level. Talking team rooms, this week’s news has included the exclusion of Bubba Watson from wildcard selection so far for team USA. Rickie Fowler, JB Holmes and Matt Kuchar are in. One final wildcard is to be picked at the conclusion of the Tour Championship. (I do think Europe knowing their team already is an advantage as the players have more time to get to grips with the task ahead). Bubba’s ranked number 7 in the world, he’s two time Masters Champion, he played in the Olympics to a huge audience, so why the omission? Personality? Davis Love III talks a lot about chemistry between his team members so may be that’s simply what it comes down to, he doesn’t see him connecting with others in the team room. We’ll find out next week who that final wildcard will be.

Di Dougherty with the Ryder Cup

Captain’s decisions aren’t easy. Darren told me last month that making the phone call to Russell Knox to tell him he didn’t make the team, was one of the toughest things he’s had to do. He admitted he hadn’t had much sleep leading up to the ‘wildcard’ day. Let’s hope he can sleep easy for now and get in as much rest as possible before it all begins. Don’t underestimate the role of Captain. When teams are so tight and talented, it often comes down to the very small detail. The Captain in my eyes has a huge part to play on this big stage.

Fans across the world will be tuning in this incredible spectacle of sport. Parents I’m sure will allow their children a numerous amount of treats over the weekend, just to be able to watch a few more holes. I have no doubt, there will be adults and children up and down the country trying to emulate what they’ve seen on television.

Growing the game, this Ryder Cup platform does just that, as the Olympics did watched by millions. It’s time to get really excited, the countdown is on… Bring it on..