Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Ryder Cup Diary: Countdown to Celtic Manor has already begun

The plus-foured marketing men often like to call the Ryder Cup "Golf's Olympics" and although that is a clearly absurd comparison it does have one whopping similarity.

As soon as one match finishes, the countdown to the next begins and from this morning Celtic Manor will be cranking up the hype to a new level. Sir Terry Matthews, the billionaire owner of the Gwent resort, has been in the media centre all week in his determination to promote 2010, doing everything but ankle-tapping reporters as they walk past.

He has even been prepared to wade in on the subject of the Europe captaincy, an issue that will not be settled until December at the earliest. With no Welsh players looking capable of making the side, Sir Tel is understandably keen to have a "home" captain. And that can only mean Ian Woosnam.

"He encourages the players and it would be nice to have a Welshman as captain when the Ryder Cup is in Wales," said the electronics magnet.

"He's so much fun. Woosie did a fantastic job last time in creating a team spirit, which is so important. He communicates well and he's fun to be with. He's always laughing and joking and encouraging."

Money undoubtedly talks in golf – and in Sir Terry's case it screams – but even so the chances of Woosnam being given the role are low to non-existent. The days are over of captains being invited back. Wales will just have to hope Bradley Dredge qualifies.



Woosnam out of favour but Bjorn looking at 2010

While on the topic, the chances of Woosnam being slighted by the identity of the man who is appointed are getting stronger by the day. Here is how the theory goes: after this experience, Jose Maria Olazabal will decide he would prefer to lead on American soil, while Sandy Lyle will again be bafflingly snubbed.

Suddenly, Thomas Bjorn, the chairman of the European Tour's players' committee, enters the picture. After being overlooked for a wildcard by Woosnam in 2006 the Dane launched into a rant, calling the diminutive Wizard of Oswestry "the most pathetic captain I've ever seen". Woosnam says he and Bjorn have made up but he would be a saint if he has forgiven. Woosnam is no saint but does occupy a standing somewhere near that status on the Valleys fairways. It would be interesting to see the reaction in Woosnam's homeland if Bjorn was given the nod.



Olazabal needs no schooling

Olazabal has impressed here with his captaincy credentials, using the letter of the law to Europe's advantage in the fourballs encounter between Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan and Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson.

As the game neared its climax, Mickelson's ball and Mahan's ball were on the same line on the green, although Mahan had taken more shots. Effectively out of the hole, he was still preparing the putt to show his partner the line.

Opponents would normally step in and concede to deny Mickelson the added assistance, except the Swedes did nothing. So in stepped Olly, except only the assistant is allowed to give the players advice and Olazabal had transgressed the rulebook.

The penalty? "There isn't one, you just get a warning first time, and then a penalty is called if it ever happens again," explained Paul Azinger, with a hint of admiration in his voice. "It's like if you miss school for seven days you get expelled. So you just miss it for six days. It's an old trick."

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