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.

Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living