Scintillating Ryder Cup has surely won over golf’s biggest cynics

Europe's Martin Kaymer celebrates after retaining the Ryder Cup with his putt on the 18th
Europe's Martin Kaymer celebrates after retaining the Ryder Cup with his putt on the 18th
Scott Gregory. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Gregory: None of the pros care I won British Amateur

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There are those of us who often have to fend off interrogations from the cynics over golf’s age demographic, fashion trends and even its very categorisation as a sport.

Laughably, some even say golf is boring.

But to those doubters, the latest gripping instalment of the Ryder Cup should surely be more than enough evidence the pinnacle of golf stands up against anything else sport can muster.

For drama, emotion, passion, nerve-shredding tension or a test of technique and mental strength under the most enormous weight of hope and expectation, there are surely few events that can compete with the Ryder Cup.

And the 2012 version was scintillating.

While some struggle to support a continent rather than an individual, a team or a country, it is also about who you want to beat.

The USA may be our traditional friends – but there’s nothing quite like beating your best mate in a grudge match.

Their supporters are just as passionate about their sport as any in the world.

And while it can sometimes appear to cross the line of sportsmanship, they just do support a little bit differently across the pond.

They have no qualms in cheering a missed putt for an opponent if it means their man wins.

And their players will whip everyone up into a frenzied ball, even when the end result is by no means certain.

Yes, Keegan Bradley, I mean you.

So while Bradley was superb in his previous matches, wasn’t it enjoyable to see his hollow expression of disbelief at being taken apart by Rory McIlroy in the singles?

Or perhaps you preferred Jim Furyk’s raised hands as he holed a crucial late putt against Sergio Garcia – only for the ball to lip out at the last nanosecond as the American then threw his arms down in a tantrum?

But for every Bradley and Furyk, there is a Phil Mickelson.

His grinning, spontaneous applause for Justin Rose looked totally genuine as the Hampshire-raised star performed a miraculous late turnaround to win their encounter.

And it was all somehow fitting for European captain Jose Maria Olazabal.

This was the guy from Brookline in 1999 – when the Americans staged their own phenomenal comeback on the final day – who still had a putt to stay in the game as the entire USA team trampled across the green to celebrate Justin Leonard’s holed putt.

The Spaniard kept his dignity that day when he would have been well within his rights to kick up a fuss.

He’ll never admit it because he has too much class, but perhaps Medinah was his chance to have the final say on that one.

As it came down to those final few minutes, fingernails were chewed down to stumps – and we were the ones sitting on a sofa watching the TV, not attempting to swing a club or hole a six-footer.

Anyone who has ever had a putt to shoot under their handicap in the monthly medal will tell you how your heart races as you stand over it and your hands can start to shake.

So quite how any of them do it on the biggest stage of all remains one of the world’s great mysteries.

And it probably tells you all you need to know about the mental strength of the very best sportsmen and women in the world.

Golf boring? Do me a favour.