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Ryder Cup: Don’t mention the war . . . on the shore

By James Corrigan

The US Ryder Cup team were treated to an inspirational speech by a fighter pilot yesterday while Colin Montgomerie called on Seve Ballesteros and Gareth Edwards.

And so the lines continued to be drawn for a Ryder Cup which will now inevitably be compared to the notorious tussle at Kiawah Island in 1991.

Of course, the Welsh crowd will never descend into the patriotic rabble which threatened golf's genteel reputation on the South Carolina coast two decades ago (if nothing else, the wet and grey conditions will surely dampen down any raucousness). No, the memories have been pricked by Pavin's military overtures.

Considering he was one of the principal combatants in the notorious ‘War On The Shore’ all those years ago, it really has been a staggering move by the US captain.

Major Dan Rooney talked to Pavin and his side on Tuesday night for “about 15 to 20 minutes” about his experiences as a decorated veteran of three tours in Iraq.

“I want these guys to be accountable to each other and look after each other's backs,” he said. “Basically that's what happens in the military. He just shared a few stories about that and how it related to ... what's happened.”

Pavin denied it would have been more diplomatic to avoid military allusions during his captaincy, particularly as he was widely criticised for wearing a camouflage cap complete with Desert Storm insignia.

In fact, he even tried to justify his own part in the disgraceful scenes which saw the crowd go way beyond what is deemed acceptable in golf as they rallied around their boys dressed up like the troops fighting in the Gulf.

“That's what it was about at Kiawah, it was about supporting the troops in Desert Storm,” said the 50-year-old.

“Not only the US troops but the troops from Great Britain and around the world. What the military does is amazing. To put your life on the line for what you believe, and for the freedoms of other people, is the ultimate sacrifice. It's very worthwhile to recognise that.”

No doubt it is, but what's it got to do with sport? That is a concern which plainly continues to baffle Pavin. Montgomerie has no such trouble understanding it, but was not about to be led down the path of castigating his opposite number for insensitivity with all the conflicts going on around the globe.

Still, the Scot could not avoid being depicted as the protagonist for employing sportsmen to inspire his players, as well as the odd motivational video.

As well as the great Wales scrum-half Edwards, Ian Woosnam and Sam Torrance were invited to the team-room — but the inevitable star of the show was Ballesteros.

He may be at home in north Spain as he continues his recovery from brain cancer, but his presence was very much felt in South Wales.

“We managed to phone Santander and the whole team spoke to Seve for about 10 minutes,” said Montgomerie. “It was very motivational, very passionate, but also very sad to hear him, hear the way he is.

“But still, the passion is very strong in Seve and it was a real inspiration. He gave a passionate speech to the team 13 years ago.”

It rained in Valderrama that year, too, although they managed to complete the match on Sunday.

The growing fear here is of a Monday finish and the first four-day Ryder Cup, after a miserable practice day which was curtailed by heavy rain.

The Americans braved the conditions early on, while the home team postponed going out for two hours.

When they did there was the extraordinary sight of the players wearing wigs on the first tee. Montgomerie later explained the reasons behind the fancy dress and it is one Pavin may well be pleased with as he tries to identify the weak links in the opposite ranks.

“I think Rory [McIlroy] was quite upset with the comments that were made in the papers about this Tiger situation, which is getting a little bit out of hand, tabloid-wise,” said Montgomerie, referring to the reports of Woods being annoyed with the young Ulsterman for saying he would “love to face Tiger” in his present form.

“So we decided to find seven wigs, which the players and caddies that were playing with him wore.

“They decided that we'll get Rory on the first tee and make him feel like a part of the team again.”

Montgomerie and Pavin ruled out engineering the Woods-McIlroy clash that the majority here would love to see.

The Europe captain's reasons for doing so were obvious — “I want to avoid that situation,” the Scot said — but Pavin's were less so.

“I don't think it's in the spirit of what the Ryder Cup is all about,” he said.

Rather strange logic when put alongside his images of war.

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