Europe's Ryder Cup team selection was resolved at the BMW tournament in Munich and was announced at a press conference with the characteristic flatness of a burst tyre.
Nothing changed in the top-10 of the Order of Merit after an event that raised the pulse only momentarily when Padraig Harrington returned a card that included 10 birdies.
John Daly beat him into second place with a level of golf to which he has not even aspired since his Open victory at St Andrews in 1995. He, more than any other player in the game reveals the mental and character aspects of it. Talent, in the timing and distance judgement are as nothing compared to the mental input to the game. Daly oscillates between the sublime and the ridiculous with the regularity of an askew pendulum. The composed calm that swung his tortured way in Munich enabled him to release mighty and straight driving as well as delicate chips and puts that elevate him into the super class.
The field that trailed behind Daly was, with the exception of Harrington, distinguished only by the absence of any of our Ryder Cup stars. Indeed, Harrington apart, one has to descend the list some way before coming upon any of the Order of Merit top-10.
But the BMW leaderboard nevertheless makes for some exciting reading. Clustered, albeit 10 shots off the pace, one finds Dean Robertson, Paul Casey and Justin Rose. These very young men have clearly posted their intent over the last few weeks and the old guard should sit up and take heed. Indeed, such has been the standard of Casey's play in the six events to which he has been invited that many, and myself included, were disappointed that Torrance was not sufficiently bold to take him as a wild card pick.
Paired with Garcia, the combination would have made for some exciting possibilities.
Sam, however, has stuck with the tried and tested Jesper Parnevik. One can only hope that Jesper arrives in Birmingham with his game intact and leaves his tailor behind. The fact that Torrence said more about Casey than he did about his predictable picks means that he at least was tempted. It is a pity that Sam did not succumb to temptation.
Between Parnevik and Olazabal the former was always likely to be favoured. He is 21st in the world rankings and his Open performance was satisfactory. Ollie, on the other hand, has been so unpredictable off the tee that he has been a danger to wild life at every tournament this year.
Ollie was never in the frame as he flitted between tours all year. But Parnevik, who has largely confided himself to the US tour, has shown and expressed a remarkable indifference to making the team on merit and his current form hardly puts him in the saviour category. His presence also ruins team photographs. Casey would have been far less of a risk all round.
It is in the pairings for fourballs and foursomes that the captain makes his mark. Sam revealed a little of his thinking in the Munich press conference but not really a lot, for thought and the De Vere Belfry are not closely related.
Garcia and Parnevik will almost certainly be called upon to repeat their unsettling performance that was so entertaining at Brookline in '99. It is an inflated thing that could well burst with all the consequences of a child's burst balloon in the event of a thumping defeat. Similarly, Clarke and Westwood will be run out together in the hope that they collide into an explosive critical mass. Pairing 'Pod' Harrington with Paul McGinley would take care of any language problems and satisfy Irish sentimentality.
Montgomerie will be asked to take the rookie Price along and Langer will have to take care of the hapless Fasth. Bojrn and Fulke will be best left to be thrown to the dogs because anything can happen with either of them - and not infrequently does! It might be no bad thing if Sam explained to them that they are the weakest link for it might goad them into a special performance.
Overall, this is not a bad team and it looks better the more one looks for combinations that Curtis Strange can put together with his disparate bunch of Americans - including his unlikely wild cards.
Can we look forward to the De Vere Belfry with optimism? I think that we can, even though the venue is not the best and far from the most inspiring to stage one of the world's greatest sporting events. We can certainly look to the future with great expectations with the young guns coming through. Indeed, the future looks bright and the future looks European.
|| 5 - SEPTEMBER 2001