Bacon’s Bites: Teamwork makes the dream work... Just don’t tell Valtteri Bottas!
- Credit: PA
Mike Bacon takes a look at two of the weekend’s biggest sporting events, the Ryder Cup and the F1 GP in Russia, where team work was key!!
‘Who said golf is boring?”, beamed an ecstatic Thomas Bjorn.
Who was going to argue?
The amiable Dane had just guided his European side to Ryder Cup glory at Le Golf National, in Paris and, among a raucous crowd more akin to an FA Cup final than a golf tournament, his smile said it all.
Teamwork had made the dream work. Of that there was no debate.
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Europe cantered to a 17½ to 10½ success against the star-studded American side, defying pre-event underdog status.
Head to head the Americans were streets ahead of Europe.
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The US had 11 of the top 20 players in the world – Europe just six.
They boasted this year’s US Open and PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka, plus reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed.
Europe had Italy’s Francesco Molinari who claimed the Claret Jug at The Open in July.
And finally – and more damming for the Americans – there were 31 Major victories in the USA side... Europe had just eight.
So how did it go so spectacularly wrong for Jim Furyk’s side?
Or more’s the point, how did it go so spectacularly right for Bjorn’s boys?
Well, quite simply the Europeans played as a team.
Back-slapping, taking and passing on advice and talking to each other around the course. It was basic team bonding seen every weekend on football, rugby and hockey pitches all over Europe.
The US had little of it. Long faces, little communication.
The only times some of the US players showed any emotion at all was on the Sunday when they played their individual matches.
Indeed it didn’t take long after the celebrations had died down that the cracks in the US team, evident throughout, began to fester.
Reed, one of the American ‘bad boys’ with the European crowd, blamed Jordan Spieth for the end of their successful Ryder Cup partnership.
Reed and Spieth had won four and halved two of their seven matches together at Gleneagles and Hazeltine in recent Ryder Cups. But they weren’t paired together in Paris.
“The issue’s obviously with Jordan not wanting to play with me,” Reed said on Sunday night.
“I don’t have any issue with Jordan. When it comes right down to it, I don’t care if I like the person I’m paired with or if the person likes me as long as it works and it sets up the team for success.
“Every day (in the team room) I saw: ‘Leave your egos at the door.’
“They (the Europeans) do that better than us.”
Golf is primarily an individual sport. Yes, there are team competitions. But when all is said and done the majority of golf is not played in team formats.
The Ryder Cup is a different beast to much of what the world’s best golfers experience every week of the year. And quite simply, Europe adapt.
The three-day competition remains one of the great sporting events and in so many ways goes completely against the grain of the stuffy, tie and collar, farquar image that golf sadly struggles to shrug off among those who follow it from afar.
And golf, like so many sports, requires personalities to grab those headlines.
It’s currently the sport’s Achilles heel, shown by the fact that even after all these years, Tiger Woods, at 42 years of age, and having been struck down with injury for the past year or so, remains the No.1 draw in the game.
So, the Ryder Cup allows us to see the world’s top players in a way you never usually see them.
Dancing on the greens, being crowd-surfed among delirious fans, spraying champagne over each other. And the best one of the weekend... Ian Poulter dressed up as a letter box... He always delivers at the Ryder Cup!
I have to mention the fact that with it being shown on Sky TV, with highlights in the evening on the Beeb, many thousands of people missed it.
Which is a shame.
Golf needs the Ryder Cup, just like tennis needs Wimbledon and track and field needs the Olympics.
Golf’s image is always enhanced on Ryder Cup weekend – and as a golfer that delights me.
But what delights most is when a plan comes together.
The exuberant celebrations in France were somewhat in contrast to the muted podium ‘celebrations’ at Sochi, in Russia yesterday.
The Russian Grand Prix was won by Britain’s Lewis Hamilton as he stretched his lead at the top of the F1 drivers’ standings to 50 points over Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel.
However, the manner of his victory was sour.
The 33-year-old Hamilton was running behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas before Mercedes ordered the Finn to move aside at the midway point to allow Hamilton through.
On the podium Hamilton offered his first place trophy to his team-mate. How sad is that?
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he was happy to be the villain after standing by his controversial decision.
“At the end, if five points or three points are missing then you are the biggest idiot on the planet by prioritising Valtteri’s race over the championship,” Wolff said.
“Somebody needs to be the baddie and it’s me today.”
While I understand the importance of a Hamilton/Mercedes win over Ferrari and Vettel in the multi-million pound business of motor sport to Mercedes, the colatteral damage to F1 as a brand cannot be measured in financial terms. It’s worse than that.
The sport’s reputation that this year’s Russian GP was a meaningful race is tarnished and only those close to it will defend it.
Many people paid good money to watch in Sochi.
Perhaps Mr Wolff would like to reimburse them all.
Because ‘a race’ was the last thing they witnessed.