Will Wales see return of Ryder wars?
It might be too early to tell whether Celtic Manor will produce another 1991 ‘War on the Shore’ or 1999 ‘Battle of Brookline’.
There have been real efforts to turn up the heat ahead of the 38th Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, but not until play gets under way on Friday will it be known if those efforts have succeeded.
After the ‘War on the Shore’ at Kiawah Island in 1991 and the “Battle of Brookline” in 1999, the postponement of the 2001 contest at The Belfry following the September 11 terrorist attacks in America helped bring about a return to friendlier competition.
The past four contests have passed off largely without incident, perhaps partly due to the two record European victories in 2004 and 2006 and a five-point US triumph two years ago, but the likelihood of a close contest in Wales could see the tension cranked up a few notches.
Prime candidates to provide some fireworks are Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, who would love to give the crowds a personal rivalry to get their teeth into.
McIlroy refreshingly declined to backtrack from his comments that he would love to face Woods in the singles, and that “anyone in the European team would fancy their chances against him,” unless his form improved rapidly.
Woods has a habit of making people eat similarly badly chosen words and flashed a knowing smile and uttered a terse “Me too” when told of McIlroy’s wish for a Sunday showdown.
If Woods, without a top-three finish all season and now divorced from wife Elin in the wake of the sex scandal which broke in November last year, needed any more motivation to prove his doubters wrong, it came in the form of a reporter’s question which poked fun at his poor form.
The world number one knocked that one back with a typically straight bat, but the worry for Europe must be that Woods brings all his talent to bear in ensuring his first victory of 2010 is a team one, rather than individual.
His captain would love that of course, and Corey Pavin is not perhaps the ideal choice to avoid cup confrontation given his role in the ‘War on the Shore’.
Pavin, who has otherwise said all the right things so far this week, was highly criticised for wearing a camouflage cap at Kiawah Island during the Gulf War but made no apologies for bringing in former F-16 pilot Major Dan Rooney to speak to his team.
“I think the military awareness in the United States is probably at an all-time high and I think people appreciate the military and what they do for our freedoms,” Pavin said.
“That’s what it was about at Kiawah, it was about supporting the troops in Desert Storm, not only the US troops, but the troops from Great Britain and around the world.”
Opposite number Colin Montgomerie was, albeit unwittingly, at the centre of the “Battle of Brookline” eight years later, when the abuse he received from the crowds was enough to force his father to leave the course.
Montgomerie does not expect anything of the kind from the home crowd this weekend, while Phil Mickelson believes it would be a bad idea anyway.
Recalling how well Montgomerie played at Brookline – where he won three and a half points out of five – Mickelson said: “I remember when he was getting heckled a little bit by the crowd.
“And that was a bad idea, because all he did was make putts left and right, and put it right back on them. I thought his ability to bring his best golf out in this event was inspirational.”
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