Wednesday 21 February 2018

Manic Mondays serve up a heady cocktail for the real sports fans

Padraig Harrington’s triumph this year at Palm Beach Gardens erupted in the dead zone of a Monday afternoon.
Padraig Harrington’s triumph this year at Palm Beach Gardens erupted in the dead zone of a Monday afternoon.

Oliver Brown

Colin Montgomerie had a habit of engaging his mouth before his brain and he was never more sorely mistaken than when he declared, amid the sodden mess of the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, that "Monday finishes are no good in any sport".

A few hours later, his European team were celebrating a victory of such ecstatic, mud-spattered implausibility that some observers likened it to a scene from Shakespeare's Henry V. And all on a Monday, no less.

It is an unfathomable curiosity that Monday tends to be sport's most democratising day.

On the Old Course today, tens of thousands of spectators will pour through the gates for £10 a head, savouring the illicit experience of swapping the office for the links while craving a repeat of the great theatre of 1988, when Seve Ballesteros saved his finest flourish for another rain-delayed final act with a 65 to eclipse Nick Price at Lytham.

Ironically, the last-day tickets 27 years ago were a shade dearer, at £11 apiece.

A fallacy persists that Monday finishes must by nature be anticlimactic.

Andy Murray won his maiden major title at the 2012 US Open on the first day of New York's working week, prevailing over Novak Djokovic in a five-set slugfest of such unremitting tension that it threatened to spill over into Tuesday.

When Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were both in contention on a Monday in 2009 - at the conclusion of a US Open so drenched by rain that it was a surprise Noah did not make a cameo appearance - the grandstands at Bethpage Black were full four hours before the players arrived.

Even the stirring drama of Padraig Harrington's triumph this year at Palm Beach Gardens erupted in the dead zone of a Monday afternoon.

The gold standard is likely to remain Goran Ivanisevic's victory over Pat Rafter in the 2001 Wimbledon final, in a moment that came to be heralded as 'People's Monday'.

For one day only, the high-rollers and token celebrities who tend to populate such occasions were swept aside by actual fans, as Australians queued throughout Sunday night to serenade their man Rafter with Waltzing Matilda.

It was the perfect match-up for the masses: the groomed Aussie poster-boy versus the rough-edged, combustible Croat who announced, after his third defeat in the final in 1998: "I go kill myself."

The contest fulfilled its billing in abundance, as four sets of rapid-fire serve-and-volley tennis culminated in a nerve-grinding decider that the wild card Ivanisevic edged 9-7.

Would the conventional Sunday staging have produced so emotional a denouement?

As Ivanisevic strode tearily towards the players' box to embrace father Srdjan, saluted by hundreds of Croatian disciples wrapped in the colours of a country that had only been independent for 10 years, it seemed very doubtful.

The more these spectaculars keep repeating, the dafter the antipathy of Montgomerie is made to look.

Even the often lugubrious Lee Westwood was not impervious to the high drama in the Usk Valley, as the Ryder Cup five years ago stretched out into a fourth unforgettable day.

"It was different, wasn't it?" he said. "It was as if an entire day of expectation had built up."

Mondays invite not simply chaos but courage, too.

There is every signal that the 2015 Open can emulate this tradition of Monday mania.

With a leaderboard comprising Grand Slam-chasing Jordan Spieth, inspired Irish amateur Paul Dunne, and a revived Harrington daring to countenance a third Claret Jug, the cocktail promises to be as intoxicating as ever. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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