Friday 15 December 2017

G-Mac outguns the US in Celtic triumph

McDowell sparks off invasion reminiscent of Croker

Grainne Cunningham

THE 17th green at Celtic Manor in Wales resembled a traditional Croker invasion yesterday as Europe scooped victory at the Ryder Cup.

The perfectly-groomed grass became home to a whooping, raucous sea of blue as exuberant fans grabbed the Irishman who stole the golden chalice back from the Americans.

And champagne rained down on the beaming Europeans as Padraig Harrington danced a jig, with the tri-colour resting on his shoulders.

In true post-match style, Graeme McDowell, a man who has nerves of steel, pulled off his top and, bare-chested, raised his arms in triumph.

The winning putt was his. The historic moment is his.

After a day which had begun smelling of victory, European confidence had gradually given way to US hope following a string of wins by the Americans. But McDowell, the US Open champion who played his first rounds on a small golf course in Portrush, Co Antrim, proved able for the pressure.

As millions of people around the world watched, 'G-Mac' holed a difficult putt from 15 feet on the 16th, and went on to win the match at the next hole.

And the tension on the Welsh golf course was at least equalled by the nail-biting on the sofa in Graeme's uncle's home as he and his family watched the closing minutes of the tournament.

"It's worse watching. You can do nothing about it," said Uel Loughrey, who first began coaching the budding golfer when he was nine.

From 9am yesterday it was party time at Rathmore Golf Club in Portrush, Graeme's home club, where a huge crowd gathered to watch their hero take Europe to victory. Jim Blee, (35) bar manager at the club and friend of the top golfer said the atmosphere was "fantastic".

"I was here working on the night he won the US Open and it is on a par with it," he said. "We knew he could do it and bring the Ryder Cup home for Europe.The members here are just elated today."

Mr Blee said the celebrating would continue to the "wee, small hours".

Mr Loughrey said the win was "brilliant" but earlier yesterday he had hoped that it would not all hang on his nephew's match. "I thought it would all have been over before it came to Graeme's match."

And Graeme himself admitted he felt under more pressure to win in Wales than in Pebble Beach.

'The US Open felt like the back nine with my dad back in Portrush compared to this. That was different. I was really nervous. Wow. It's a different feeling, there's so much pressure. I can't describe the feeling of winning this golf tournament ... It's a special feeling."


And he added: "But that is the beauty of the Ryder Cup, the adrenaline brings you through all of it. There is no better feeling than that -- the roar when you sink a big putt.

"That 16th green was the biggest putt of my career. You could see what it meant to so many people. I will never forget it."

He praised all his team members, who included Irishmen Harrington, Rory McIlroy, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke, and his captain Colin Montgomerie.

As fans swarmed over the fairways and greens of the Newport course, some of the biggest cheers were reserved for the inspirational captain who lead his team to victory.

Even before the event started, 'Monty' said that being captain of the team was the highlight of his golfing career. Yesterday he said he was "very proud" and that everyone had given 100pc.

Rory McIlroy's family also spoke of their pride in the 21-year-old's impressive performance last night.

His uncle Colin McIlroy spoke from Holywood Golf Club, Co Down, where Rory began playing as a two-year-old. "It was a great achievement for Europe, especially a couple of Northern Irish boys, especially my nephew to come from this wee club," he said.

"He's come so far from such an early age. He's destined for this. He has been so good for so long and obviously we are very, very proud of him."

Eddie Harper, juvenile convener at the club, also praised the young golfer for keeping in touch with his friends and family at home.

"He has never lost his roots. Even now as a world-famous player he still goes back to the club," he said.

Last night Sports Minister Mary Hanafin congratulated the team on their victory.

Paying particular credit to the Irish golfers on the team, she said "the steely determination of Graeme McDowell's play in the final holes of the 2010 Ryder Cup will live long in the memories of everyone throughout Ireland and Europe".

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