Guardian at Gleneagles: United state of Europe

Worksop Guadian Sport logo, Golf
Worksop Guadian Sport logo, Golf

There was a marked difference between the European Ryder Cup team and their American foes last night, aside from five points on the scoreboard.

One team was always going to hold a sombre press conference, with an inquest into their defeat, while the victors were going to drink champagne and toast a famous win.

But no one expected such a rift to develop in the American camp, Phil Mickelson’s disagreement with captain Tom Watson played out in front of the assembled press.

There was such a stark contrast between the fascinating, awkward, palpable tension as veteran Mickelson made clear his preference for Paul Azinger’s style of captaincy over Watson’s, and the unity displayed by the Europeans just minutes later.

There was a genuinely touching warmth in the way Victor Dubuisson spoke of his gratitude for Graeme McDowell’s help and friendship during his first taste of the competition.

Winks and smiles passed between Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, who delievered four and a half points between them and took on leadership duties.

Thomas Bjorn and Jamie Donaldson - the man who retained the cup - giggled like schoolboys and mucked around as their team-mates answered questions.

There was an overwhelming sense that captain Paul McGinley had fostered a ‘one for all’ ethos in the team room.

Had the roles been reversed, it would have been the Rickie Fowlers and Patrick Reeds flashing winning smiles – but the discontent felt by at least one of the US team at being left out of decision making would surely have emerged at some point, in autobiographies perhaps.

It’s hard to imagine the Europeans turning on McGinley in such a manner, all the signs coming out of the blue half of the competition all week pointed to unity.

McDowell leaping to Garcia’s defence in the wake of Nick Faldo’s insults, the willingness of big name players like Westwood to play a role, sit out a session and be a steady hand on the shoulder of a rookie – more evidence of a happy camp.

The communication between McGinley and the players seemingly started long before they arrived at Gleneagles, and continued throughout the event - they all had copies of the hymn sheet.

Of all the messages the Irishman dished out to his 12 heroes, the one that stuck with Worksop’s Westwood was simply ‘have fun’ - and from dancing on the first tee to showering each other in champagne, the European Ryder Cup team were happy to do as they were told.

McGinley will be a hard act to follow, but he can now pass a winning formula down to the man who takes the job on in two years time.