Thursday 23 January 2020

The Last Word: Worrying signs for Europe's Ryder Cup bid

Jimmy Walker's victory in the US PGA brought a remarkable Majors season to an end. Photo: Getty Images
Jimmy Walker's victory in the US PGA brought a remarkable Majors season to an end. Photo: Getty Images
Eamonn Sweeney

Eamonn Sweeney

Jimmy Walker's victory in the US PGA brought a remarkable Majors season to an end. Perhaps the most remarkable thing of all is that the three golfers who seemed set to dominate at the start of the year - Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth - didn't win one Major between them.

Day finished second behind Walker, but the other two have been well off the pace all season, and it seems incredible that their third-round pairing in the Masters seemed at the time like some form of epochal showdown.

The big winner of the year has been Dustin Johnson, who has moved up from eighth to second behind Day, leapfrogging both Spieth and McIlroy. A worrying statistic for Europe with the Ryder Cup looming is the presence of 13 Americans in a world top 25 containing just six Europeans.

Political salutes could feature at the Games

John Carlos and Tommy Smith's Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics is one of those things that, like Muhammad Ali's refusal to go to Vietnam, Lance Armstrong's guilt and the dubious nature of Michelle Smith's triumph at the 1996 Olympics, everyone believes in now. Time has robbed the gesture of its revolutionary connotations and made it something everyone can share in a United Colours of Benetton kind of way.

But what would happen to a contemporary version of the Smith and Carlos gesture? Perhaps we'll find out - given that the killings of African-Americans by police, the highlighting of such by the Black Lives Matter movement and the undercurrent of racism in Donald Trump's presidential campaign have combined to make race relations in the US as fraught as they were in the late 1960s. A Reuters poll found that 65 per cent of Americans believe athletes shouldn't express their political views, so maybe that Smith/Carlos salute isn't as popular as we like to believe.

Oh Jimmy - you've gone and done it again

The Olympics certainly seem to bring out the best in Jimmy Magee. During the London games, while commentating on a fight involving black American boxer Rau'shee Warren, the national treasure himself commented: "If there's a black-out here in London, you'll find Warren with those boots - you mightn't see the rest of him." Laugh? I nearly set my hood alight on the burning cross.

Last week Jimmy returned to the subject of race while speaking with Gavan Reilly of Today FM's Last Word, saying: "When you see the Irish team abroad you can take for granted they're Irish. When you look at Sweden or Denmark, and you see 25 black men running for Denmark or Sweden, I think that's a bigger problem than doping."

Guess how many black men will be running for Denmark in the Olympics? One. And Sweden? Also one. More such gems await us, I'm sure. RTE doesn't seem to have any problem with them.

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