The Year in Review: The Ryder Cup

Bring on the rain, and Europe’s new reign

Hitting moving balls might currently pose a problem for British sportsmen, but in the propulsion of stationary ones, 1.68 inches in diameter, this has been a truly memorable year. According to golf's official world rankings, five of the current 10 best players on the planet hail from these islands, with a sixth, the young northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, ranked 11th. And topping the list, knocking Tiger Woods from a summit that once seemed his for as long as he wanted to occupy it, is 37-year-old Lee Westwood, Nottinghamshire's most accurate man over 300 yards since Robin Hood.

That Westwood was raised and still lives in the Worksop area somehow underlines the improbable surge of British golf. Aren't world number ones in golf meant to come from the sun-kissed coast of California? Mind you, Britain's last world number one, Nick Faldo, came from Welwyn Garden City. Watch out for the golfing talent emerging from Wigan, Warrington and Wolverhampton, and all other unremarkable places beginning with a W.

Meanwhile, for further proof of a golfing annus mirabilis, consider this: Westwood has seized Tiger's crown, and yet he is not even Britain's golfer of the year. That distinction belongs to Graeme McDowell, like McIlroy a Northern Irishman, who in June won the US Open. He was not just the first Brit to do so, but the first European, since Tony Jacklin from sunny Scunthorpe, 40 years ago.

While Westwood has risen from world number four a year ago to number one now, McDowell's rise through the rankings has been more dramatically vertiginous: from 39th up to sixth. And Woods features in his story, too. Three weeks ago, in a two-man play-off for the Chevron World Challenge in California, McDowell did to the Tiger what the Tiger used to do to everyone else, whittling away at his lead and then nailing a couple of killer 20ft putts to finish him off. True, Woods is not quite the player he was before his Cadillac Escalade notoriously careered into a fire hydrant 13 months ago, setting off a chain of events that would lead to the grievous loss of his wife, his coach, his form and several million-dollar endorsements, maybe but maybe not in descending order of grievousness. Yet the stat remains that he had never relinquished a lead of three or more shots going into a tournament's final day; over McDowell his lead had been four shots .

Had McDowell achieved nothing this year beyond winning the US Open and overcoming the still-mighty Woods in a head-to-head, he would have sat down to his Christmas lunch reflecting on incomparably the most successful period of his career. Yet it is not so much these deeds that he will look back on with pride, and which yielded a place on the shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year last Sunday, as his stirring heroics, one day in early October, in the Usk Valley in south Wales. It was the 38th Ryder Cup, between Europe and the US, that made a superstar of Graeme McDowell.

Team golf is in some ways an oxymoron. After all, greatness in the Royal and Ancient game is measured by individual rather than collective achievements. But that is precisely why the players so value the Ryder Cup, as a respite from their lonely toil, and a rare opportunity to make a golf course sound like a football stadium. McDowell and his young pal McIlroy combined solidly for the first three days of an event prolonged by apocalyptic weather, but on the fourth day, which miraculously unfolded under a cloudless sky, the man they call G-Mac was out on his own, sent out by captain Colin Montgomerie as the trusty anchorman in the last of the 12 singles matches, just in case a late point was required.

And boy, was it. On the 16th green, in just about the most fierce crucible of pressure that golf can produce, with the European hopes resting like a boulder on his shoulders, G-Mac somehow rolled in one of the most knee-trembling birdie putts that even old-timers could remember. By the next green the match was his, the trophy was Europe's, and winning the US Open was, astonishingly, no longer the highlight of his year.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier league

The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Polly Borgen at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012
peopleThe Emmy award-winner starred in Cape Fear, the Sopranos and Desperate House Wives
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam