Monday 5 December 2016

Cup runneth over with a bet to satisfy everyone's addiction

Published 26/09/2010 | 05:00

M r Graham Calvert, then a promising greyhound trainer, had something in the region of £350,000 on America at slightly better than evens, to win the Ryder Cup at The K Club. I had about 80 quid myself on America at the same odds, and when Europe won in a landslide, after all my hard work, I was absolutely devastated.

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So I have tried to imagine the state of mind of Calvert as he watched Brett Wetterich and Vaughn Taylor and JJ Henry slowly shredding his 350 grand. And I think too of his grief when Tiger found the water with his drive on the first, a chilling portent of what was to come.

Yet, if we knew then what we know now, we'd have realised that there were men at The K Club who were gambling on a scale which made Graham Calvert look like . . . well, like me.

Corporate Paddy was loving it down there.

Like the tragic Calvert, he was in the habit of punting fantastic sums, and not just on the bounce of a ball. During those days of delirium, Corporate Paddy was playing the money-markets and other such rackets and he seemed to understand all that stuff for a while. But actually, he hadn't a clue.

Calvert was betting on eminently reasonable propositions. He had Phil Mickelson on his team. Paddy was looking to Bulgaria and to Cape Verde.

But we don't look back, we look forward, always forward, our hearts full of hope. No punter can fail to be deeply moved by the build-up to the Ryder Cup because, like most things in life, it is now largely about punting.

Rory McIlroy is right when he disparages it as a true test of a golfer's prowess, but he is wrong if he thinks it is not profoundly important. When I made hundreds -- and I mean hundreds -- on the USA in 2008 at Valhalla, it felt pretty important to me. And I'm going in again on the USA at Celtic Manor, for all sorts of brilliant reasons, but mainly because they can be backed at 11/10, not to win outright, just to retain the Cup.

Many of us who will be backing America again next week are using a similar thought process. We note that they are a better price, and then we start to construct our arguments.

For example, the leadership of Monty must be worth two points a day, minimum, to the USA. Then there's this strange assumption that the Molinari Brothers are bound to win, just because they're brothers -- but what if they lose? What sort of a blow will that be to the morale of a Europe team, most of whom can only get it done when they've got 11 other exhibitionist bottlers out there with them?

Moreover, for the first time in his life, there may be some vague meaning in this for Tiger, if only as a cheap PR gimmick for a world full of fools.

Against all this, I recall making an equally strong case for the team that contained Brett Wetterich. I guess I was feeling the fever back then.

And it's brewing up again for this long weekend watching television from 8.0 in the morning and betting incessantly. There is something here to suit all your gambling moods.

Clearly everyone will have a major interest in the overall result, keeping us pumped up for the three days. But we can be betting our brains out on every match, indeed on every hole.

Though we know it is completely impossible to make any sort of intelligent prediction of a match between, say, Hanson and Donald and Kuchar and Mahan, still we need to be involved.

We've got four days to go now until Corporate Taffy takes his turn, four seemingly endless days of the finest bullshit known to humanity, finer even than the bullshit to be had in the countdown to Cheltenham -- they don't have an opening ceremony at Cheltenham, with speeches and national anthems and probably, this year, some betting angle.

It is all necessary, as we savour every moment before the orgy of self-congratulation and self-hatred that is to come.

* * * * *

Even the men who partied hardest at the K Club would probably agree that Ireland has hardly had a happy day since. And it's been even longer since the fans of Liverpool FC could crack a smile.

Liverpool, too, has been destroyed by the corporate class and the morons who let them do it.

And the football writers of England have also made a contribution. There is now an iron rule that whatever the overwhelming majority of journalists think of the situation at Liverpool, the polar opposite is true.

Thus they said that Liverpool were "lucky" to get Roy Hodgson, that he would bring "stability", that Liverpool would now be "well-organised" (the sort of thing they'd usually say about Charlton Athletic or Brentford), and that Roy's famed man-management skills would liberate the spirits of so many players crushed under the jackboot of Benitez.

And how has that worked out?

I might also mention Roy's legendary eye for a bargain and the fact that Steven Gerrard has again been seen in his "favoured central midfield role", but it is all sad enough already.

Ah, but Roy did such a fantastic job at Fulham, did he not? Building on our golf theme, the fans of Liverpool could see from about 200 miles away that managing Fulham is like playing off a handicap of 18.

The manager of Fulham, for example, is never expected to win a match away from home. Indeed if he doesn't win a match at home either for, say, two months, it's not exactly the end of the world.

And since he is now aged 62, it's not as if Roy was just getting "on the ladder" at Fulham. The man has been playing off 18, so to speak, for most of his life.

And the Liverpool fans know it in their bones, which helps to explain the mysterious lack of warmth they have shown to him, and this from fans who traditionally revere the manager.

Not that his media allies have noticed a bit of this, as they ponder the size of Roy's task, given all the average players that Rafa left behind him.

Interestingly, Rafa found a fair few average players left behind by Gerard Houllier -- that would be Houllier whose departure from Liverpool is still quietly mourned by many journalists who saw him as a personal friend and a civilising influence up there -- and Rafa won the Champions League with them.

A long, long time ago.

ssport@independent.ie

Sunday Independent

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