Ryder Cup 2014: Sky’s green room is home to predictions, inside info and a bit of blue language...

Kevin Garside goes behind the scenes with TV channel to hear the pundits Harmon, Montgomerie and Torrance talk Gleneagles

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The Independent Online

Vice-captain Sam Torrance pulled out a piece of paper from his suit pocket. Research, he said, too sensitive to share with the live audience. Come on, Sam. He was probably mindful of appearances, not wanting to appear cocky on TV. The information scrawled crudely across the crumpled A4 was available across the ether. But it was revealing, a guide detailing the rum form of the majority in the American Ryder Cup team. Dire just about does it, for the most part a top 10 desert.

Torrance was sharing his intelligence in the green room at Sky before heading into the Ryder Cup studio alongside fellow pundits Colin Montgomerie, Tony Jacklin – whom he always addresses as “captain”, demonstrating just how deep run the ties forged on Ryder Cup service – and the lone voice of America, Butch Harmon.

A robust response to the Torrance missive came quickly to Harmon but his hands were tied: “I’ve already been warned I can’t say bollocks or fuck.” It is a pity Sky’s exhaustive Ryder Cup coverage does not quite access all areas. It is hard to imagine how the public might be offended, or the reputations of those in the house damaged by the industrial edge to the banter. It is way more expressive and nourishing than some of the soft-focus output we get.

Harmon accepts that the United States has not shipped vintage red to Gleneagles, but inferiority is only a matter of degree, he says. “Absolutely, there’s no doubt about it, the European team when you look at where they are in world rankings is a very strong team and they will be heavy favourites. I wouldn’t say it’s one of the weakest US teams, I think it is one of the most inexperienced. All of the players on the team are good players.”

 

The good news is the Americans will not miss you know who, according to Harmon. “The last time we won in Kentucky he wasn’t on the team either. Right now he isn’t Tiger Woods, not the Tiger Woods we knew in the past. He is just another player.”

There is a big cat on the loose at Gleneagles, of course. His name is Rory McIlroy, the dominant figure in the world game, a unique attraction setting the golfing agenda on and off the course in the manner Woods once did. Harmon would not have him a target of the American foe, more an objective.

“Any time you beat the No 1 player in the world it gives you confidence,” he says. “And he is the best, no doubt about that. Would you want to beat Tiger Woods when he was  No 1? Of course you would. But to say he has a target on his back is wrong. It’s just one point, not winning the tournament. The Americans respect him and like him. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t play all five matches.

“Rory is a phenomenon. We will have to wait to see how far his career takes him because he is still only 25. When you compare him to Jack [Nicklaus] and Tiger at this stage he is on the same course. But you have to do it over time. I love his game. He hits it a mile, controls his ball and putts brilliantly. What more is there?”

The idea that paper supremacy does not guarantee an outcome was illustrated by the footballing anecdote provided by Leeds United devotee Colin Montgomerie, who arrived in west London straight from a commercial trip to India via an afternoon to refresh at a Heathrow hotel. “I was watching the Manchester United match. They were 3-1 up when I nodded off. When I woke up and saw the score I thought ‘Whaaat! Couldn’t believe it.’”

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Butch Harmon, the former coach of Tiger Woods, has described Rory McIlroy as a “phenomenon” (Getty)

Like Harmon, Montgomerie predicts a close match, with Europe the likely victors. He gave his reasons to the viewers, but saved his best line for the ad break when he invited Butch to stand up and show the audience the red-and-white US team belt holding up his trousers. “I’d show you mine but I haven’t seen my waist for some time.”

Monty’s waistline issues are not helped by his reluctance to fly. He went straight from the studio to the wheel of his car, driving the six hours to Gleneagles. “I listen to the radio a lot,” he said. “Talksport. Leeds might get a mention. Won 3-0 yesterday. I think they might have found something with this manager, you know.”

Harmon’s green-room anecdotes were largely confined to business. He loves Phil Mickelson, whom he coaches, has concerns about Bubba Watson and wonders if the American captain is not out of touch. “With Tom [Watson] there are pluses and minuses. Tom is a little on the negative side because of his age. At 65 he is not that close to a lot of the players. He has made an attempt to play regular tour events and has played practice rounds with every one of the guys, but he appointed Steve Stricker as vice-captain who is closer to the players, and knows them all.

“On the plus side he has a great record in the Ryder Cup and was captain the last time US won on European soil at The Belfry.”

And Bubba? “He is an interesting character. One of the reasons Webb Simpson is on the team is to pair with Bubba because they are friends. I don’t know how much Bubba will play. Yes he is the Masters champion but in a team event he hasn’t really shown a lot of style, but then you can say that of some of the others. He is a different kind of guy. His game is unique, the way he plays. It is what it is.”

Never mind there is always Mickelson, bringing up the personal Ryder Cup decima, “Phil is hugely important, the leader of this team. He always has been, even when Tiger was involved. Phil is the guy in the team room that gets everyone together, the fun guy to be around. He is the one to get guys pumped up. Tiger, as good a player as he was, was just an individual.”

Sky Sports will “Bring The Noise” from the 2014 Ryder Cup exclusively live on TV, mobile, online and via NOW TV including the Week Pass

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