Is a Sunday battle royale too much to ask for in Rome

Mark McGowan

Justin Rose wins his pivotal match against Phil Mickelson in 2012 (Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America via Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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I don’t want much out of a Ryder Cup, I just want excitement. As much as I want Europe to win – and I do want Europe to win – a European victory plays second fiddle to a closely contested match in my eyes.

A fellow golf fan once told me he’d rather see a whitewash in every Ryder Cup from now until eternity as long as it was Europe doing the whitewashing rather than see the United States win a Cup that goes down to the wire, but that’s a position I just can’t agree with.

For starters, were that the case, we’d quickly lose interest, which was exactly what was beginning to happen before the likes of Jack Nicklaus lobbied for continental Europe to join the fray in the ’70s. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the odd drubbing – particularly if it’s the Americans that are getting spanked – but these one-sided affairs need to be outliers, a break from the norm, and come along once a decade at best.

Not since Medinah in 2012 have we had a Ryder Cup that was particularly close as the singles matches drew to a close. Sure, the dreamers among us can convince ourselves that it’s close when the side trailing by four take a lead in the first couple of matches, but the reality has been that by the time the fifth or sixth singles match is over, the destination of the Ryder Cup has been in little doubt.

As a golf fan, I feel like I’ve been cheated a little as the most four recent Ryder Cups have all been one-sided, with the home team putting the visitors to the sword and the last couple of hours on Sunday becoming something of a damp squib. Give me drama. Give me pressure. Give me unlikely heroes standing tall and big name stars having a melt down. Give me Justin Rose – well, preferably not Justin Rose – holing a 60-footer on the 17th to flip a match, give me Hunter Mahan duffing a chip, give me Christy O’Connor Jr hitting a 2-iron to two feet, give me Justin Leonard holing a raker and the entire US team tramping all over the green. Just don’t give me a victory procession where the only questions are ‘which player is going to get the winning point?’ and ‘what is the margin of victory going to be?’

Essentially, give me what the Solheim Cup has given us consistently for the past decade.

Anybody watching on Sunday will have been glued to their seat, unable to take their eyes off it as the pendulum swung this way and that. With less than an hour of play left, the bookmakers made the United States 1/10 favourites to win it outright, with Europe offered as high as 300/1.

Fifteen minutes later, a tie was odds on and Europe had been cut to 6/1.

We had Carlotta Ciganda, with one LPGA Tour title to her name and who’d dipped as low as 55 in the world this year, following a shank on the 15th, pulling out two of the best high-pressure shots imaginable and taking down the world number three.

We had Caroline Hedwall, picked on the captain’s instinct and who hadn’t been trusted to play in any of the three opening sessions, going on a back-nine birdie blitz to catch and then overtake Ally Ewing, and we had Lexi Thompson, who is as famous for her major collapses as she is for having debuted in the US Open as a 12-year-old, leaking oil on the way in as Emily Pedersen piled on the pressure.

It was incredible viewing, and right to the bitter end, box office material. And it was a retention of the cup, by the way, not a win, despite the way it’s being portrayed in the European media.

These are the kinds of twists and turns that make team golf the special event it really is. Where each holed putt seems monumental and each miss, a catastrophic failure.

Give me that this week. Give me Viktor Hovland against Collin Morikawa like we had at Whistling Straits, just have it mean something more than that Hovland’s match-tying birdie on 18 delaying US celebrations for a mere five minutes.

Give me Rory McIlroy tears, but give me them at the end, not after the first singles match.

Because of the nature of the event, and what it means to the 28 players involved, we’re guaranteed drama for at least two days, but, and I don’t think I’m being greedy here, I want it for all three.

After four successive anti-climactic Ryder Cup Sundays, I think we’re owed that much.

Oh, and if the cameras covering the Ryder Cup Guardians could somehow malfunction, that would be great too.

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