Photo-shoot: Valderrama: veni, vidi, vici
Saturday 04 October 1997
It was almost like being Seve Ballesteros, being a spectator at Valderrama. OK, you didn't get to zip around the course on his Thrust-style buggy. You couldn't get inside the ropes to pull a club out of a bag and quietly (?!) suggest to a caddie this was the implement he should hand to his player.
But, like Seve, you didn't get any sleep. Like Seve, you got soaking wet. And, like Seve, you all but played every shot and went through every possible emotion before Europe secured the narrowest of victories. They came from all over Europe, mainly from Britain and Ireland but also from Germany and Scandinavia - in their Viking helmets - and from Italy and France, and even some from other parts of Spain.
From the resorts of Marbella and Torremolinos, they rose at 4am to travel to the western end of the Costa del Sol. Strictly against orders, they smuggled in step ladders and stole crates from the catering tents to see the action.
There were more Americans than ever before for a Ryder Cup on this side of the Atlantic, although you would not have known it on the first two days. Only on Sunday, with the Stars and Stripes comeback operational, did they reach their usual volubility.
Since the excesses of Kiawah Island, with the American players whipping up a partisan gallery, decorum has been re-established. It started four years ago at The Belfry, where some Americans had cause to complain on previous occasions, and especially at Oak Hill in '95. Despite the fact that spectators can get closer to the action than in any other sport, and the closeness of the contest, there were no major incidents at Valderrama.
"The atmosphere was incredible, the tension was amazing," said a newcomer to the event. "The whole thing went far beyond my expectations. There was a complete feeling of unity for the Europeans. It didn't matter who it was, where they were from, everyone ganged up behind them.
"You can get so close to the players when you are by the ropes. You could shout `well done' or `good luck' and they would acknowledge the support. Even Seve, rushing around on his buggy, stopped to give autographs. But best of all was the respect everyone had for the players and the occasion. The silence at each relevant moment was electrifying."
The visiting captain, Tom Kite, had no complaints. "I cannot say enough about the galleries," he said. "They were enthusiastic but at the same time very fair. They were quiet when my players were playing, they were courteous of all my players. They cheered louder for the Europeans, but we expected that. In two years' time it will be the other way round."
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