Spellbound by whispers in the dark

Scott Perry forgets Sky and hears the Ryder Cup climax on Five Live
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The Independent Online
I DON'T have Sky, but I know a man who does. Unfortunately he's out. I leave a message on his answering machine, settle in the conservatory, and wait for the phone to ring. Beneath the husky, whispering commentators my eyes roam the garden, my mind wanders. Slowly, Five Live begins to reel me in.

The light has faded to a dull violet and two glowing bars from the gas fire are all there is to catch my eye. As the darkness comes the orange heat from the gas fire seems to take over the room. Faldo has a putt to level the score. "In it goes!" yells Tommy Horton. By now all thoughts of Sky have gone, and Walton is three up with three to play. "Majestic. A wonderful shot, a wonderful shot, Faldo to about three feet." He's on the 18th. So is Mrs Faldo. So is Mrs Woosnam, so is Mrs Montgomerie.

"Strange . . . It's missed on the right - It's missed on the right!" I begin to slaver. It's Faldo's turn. The state of the game is crystal clear, the significance, even to Faldo, delicately understated. "One of the biggest putts of his life. I doubt if he's ever faced a bigger putt. If ever your country needed you." Is there a war on? I think there is.

"It's in the hole," he screams, "It's in the hole!" Ballesteros is in tears, Faldo is in tears, Ken Schofield is in tears. Who the hell is Ken Schofield? Doesn't matter. Walton only needs a half. "They wouldn't need Concorde, they'd fly over themselves!" (This rather unlikely assertion slips by unquestioned in the thick of battle.) Breathless phrases, hushed. It's close, so close. "It's 7.49 in the UK. It's 2.49 in the USA. Mark that time, folks." I mark it.

"Oh gracious, I've got to watch it," moans George Bayley. For God's sake, George, don't let us down now, keep your nerve, man. "Let's have the cup back," he mutters, like a vindicated child emerging from a four-year sulk.

In the blackness the only noise is hissing gas. "You'd think there was no one here." He's reading my mind. "There has to be 20,000." Not a murmur. 7.49 slips by. 7.50 slips by, followed by Walton's putt. The agony goes on.

On the 18th the tee shots are flayed left and right. Alan Green tells the nation that a tree "the size of the Queen Mary" stands before Jay Haas and the green. Does he relish the job of relaying this unspeakably good news? I think he probably does. Is this patriotic image right for the moment? Oh yes.

"We're all in this together," someone says. "You wouldn't wish it on anyone," someone else says. "My knees are quivering, Tommy," says Alan Green. "Yes, thank you Alan," says Tommy.

Two putts for the Ryder Cup. Xenophobia at 12 feet, the pleasure in the anticipation. Haas concedes and the floodgates open: tears and eulogies in equal measure. We gorge on a smorgasbord of superlatives and they repeat like belches at a banquet.

Bernard Gallacher says that we're not going to gloat. If you're going to tell lies, tell big ones. I'm going to gloat. Bernard is dancing across the green, I hear between interviews. In all the excitement the expectant Mrs Montgomerie is warned not to have her baby, not yet, anyway.

And that's it. I walk out of the room, out of earshot. It's over. I am not from the radio generation. I have always had the pictures. I couldn't wait for the TV news, just to check it was all real. And there they were, there was that putt, there were the tears, but where was the magic? Gone, popped like a balloon. Faldo the face was never so great as Faldo the name. It all seemed cheap and two-dimensional.

But we won. The braying and chanting had been silenced. And our commentators were so marvellously partial. Totally biased, but in such taste. There were no American accents to dilute this most European of broadcasts, except at the end with a humble word or two from one of the vanquished. And what could I hear through Corey Pavin's tremulous speech? The chant of "Eur-ope Eur-ope"? Sweet hypocrisy, sweet revenge.