Europe’s victory in the 2010 Ryder Cup was more than just beating the Americans on home soil. It was more than just redemption for two years ago, when Nick Faldo failed to ignite the flame of a dwindling European side. It was more than just playing better golf than our opponents. This Ryder Cup victory confirmed what us Europeans had known for many years, but what our fellow golf fans across the Atlantic had failed to acknowledge: the top European golfers are on par – in terms of talent, and now achievement – with the Americans.
Talk had begun before the Ryder Cup of the strength in depth of this European side. Only a win in the final qualifying competition was enough to increase Edoardo Molinari’s chances of a captain’s pick. Winning the most Majors of any player in the last four years wasn’t even enough to assure selection for Padraig Harrington, as he jostled with Paul Casey – number seven in the World Golf Rankings – for Captain Monty’s pick.
Despite any controversy that did arise over picks, this week was undoubtedly a concerted European effort, and a successful one at that; but the performance of Britain’s golfers – as a sub-group of the European side – is particularly apparent. The charismatic Ian Poulter proved again virtually unstoppable in the Ryder Cup format; earning three points out of four and gliding to an emphatic 5&4 trouncing of Matt Kuchar. Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell capped off the year of his career by – perhaps fittingly – being the man that secured Europe’s victory in the final match on Monday. Helped by knowledge of the course gained by victory in the Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open this year, and brimming with confidence following his first Major triumph in the U.S. Open in June, McDowell displayed the tenacious energy and self-composure we have to come to expect from one of Europe’s most regular winners.
Ross Fisher displayed a side to him no-one had seen before. Frequently holed putts and even more frequent fist pumps were synonymous with Fisher this week, who contributed two points in his first Ryder Cup. Other rookie Rory McIlroy was unable to match some of the scintillating golf he performed earlier this year, but proved vital in the energy and exuberance he added, taking any opportunity he could to rev up the crowd and cement his position as probable world number one golfer. Luke Donald again established himself to be the ultimate team partner, proving successful with both Poulter and Westwood, and holding off the winner of the PGA Tour’s end of season finale, the stoic Jim Furyk, in the singles.
However, the 2010 Ryder Cup victory will mean no more to anyone than Lee Westwood. Sidelined for several weeks by a calf injury, Westwood could be forgiven for being a little rusty upon his return to golf, especially amid the intense scrutiny of the biennial matches. No such rustiness emerged. A resounding 6&5 victory with partner Luke Donald over Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods highlighted the sort of golf that has led many to label him ‘best ball striker in the world’. And his once sometimes unreliable short game now looks to be at the level of someone deservedly challenging in every Major. Marred only by a singles loss to the unflappable Stricker, Westwood has come to epitomise the stature of current European golf: elegant, effective, ruthless, and victorious.
Eight of the world’s top fifteen golfers are European and a wealth of up-and-coming talent means our position is secure. If anyone needed further confirmation that European golf is emerging from the oppressive shadow cast over it by the dominance of the Americans, then this week has provided it. Captain Montgomerie has so often been the butt of jokes by American golf fans but, this week, he and European golf in general, had the last laugh.