|The European Ryder Cup team prevailed through the rain-hit tournament to regain the trophy [REUTERS]
Colin Montgomerie, once described as resembling a bulldog chewing a wasp, looked like the cat who got the cream as he milked every moment of Europe’s one-point victory in the Ryder Cup’s closing ceremony.
The European captain, who has not put a foot wrong during a testing week on and off the course, delivered another faultless performance on stage just a few hundred metres from the 17th green where two hours earlier on Monday Graeme McDowell won the point to secure a 14 1/2-13 1/2 win to regain the trophy.
“We expected a great match and we expected great support. The world was watching and Wales delivered,” he said, to thunderous applause.
The Scot had been pressed all week to compare his captaincy role to his playing days, where he enjoyed some of his finest moments with six wins and two halves from his singles matches. He had played it down previously but knew the moment had arrived with all eyes upon him.
“This was one of the finest moments of my golfing career,” he said, before pretending to re-read his notes. “No hang on – this is the greatest moment of my golfing career,” he added, bringing the house down once more.
All the players and assistants had discarded their mud-splattered kit and, in smart jackets and open-necked shirts, had walked side by side to their places on stage. They were greeted by delirious chants of “Gmac, Gmac” in recognition of McDowell, the man whose last-game point secured the cup for Europe.
When Carwyn Jones, the Welsh first minister, lauded the Americans by saying their country could have no finer ambassadors, Montgomerie and the players rose as one to applaud.
Jones presented the Ryder Cup to Montgomerie and he hoisted it high for the fans, who responded with more of the “Monty” chants that have rung around the course all week.
“To 12 special guys, I asked them to play with their hearts and with passion and by God they did,” he said, before announcing each player individually – with a subsequent roar of applause for each one.
“Corey you are a credit to the profession of golf and your team are a credit to you,” he added to opposite number Corey Pavin. The U.S. captain, struggling to speak as he choked back his emotions, was similarly full of praise.
“Colin, to you and your team we say congratulations on a hard-fought well-played match, you guys played better than us, just by a little bit, and I congratulate each and every one of you, very well done.”
“To my players I’m so proud of each and every one of you.
“We started a little slow, came back hard, almost got there. I’m very proud of their resolve, their sportsmanship and their fine
“It’s been an honour and a privilege to call them team mates,” he said, just managing to utter the final few words before shaking the hand of each player.
The ceremony took place in late afternoon sunshine, conditions the organisers would have paid a fortune to have had instead of the deluge that wiped out seven hours’ play on Friday – with thousands of fans staying to watch.
Around 35,000 of those short-changed by the weather on Sunday had managed to get to the course on Monday, with only 5,000 not making the return.
It was a remarkable effort and though it might not have been entirely welcomed by the region’s employers, it certainly was by the captains and players of both sides.
“We thank every fan for your fairness and appreciation of the game, you were all fantastic,” said Montgomerie.
Pavin agreed: “I’d like to say thank you, you guys were great to play in front of, you showed tremendous respect and we appreciate you coming out here on a Monday and having a good time.”
Rookie Jeff Overton, who beat Ross Fisher 3&2, was similarly impressed: “This whole event has been awesome. I can’t describe the emotional feelings you get, especially with all of the crowd, the fans, that come out and support the event.
“It’s a dream come true to be a part of and win or lose, it’s all about the sport.”