When Ryder Cup golf was disgraced

IN an extract from his new book, Sam Torrance, part of Europe’s team, recalls his reaction to exuberant and premature US celebrations that marred a thrilling end to the match, which they ultimately won.

I’VE called it the most disgusting and disgraceful day in the history of professional golf, and so that’s on the record. So much else has been written and said about those scenes that I don’t need to go into all the exact detail of it again. Suffice to say that it was 15 minutes or so before the situation had calmed down enough for Olazabal to be able to attempt his own putt.

[America’s] Tom Lehman, of course, ran fully 50 yards from where he was crouched by the 17th green, back down the fairway, fist-pumping and helping to raise the crowd’s reaction to [Justin] Leonard’s great putt into something akin to a frenzy.

It was behaviour I just can’t condone. I can understand why it happened, because we’re all human, and in the intensity of a situation like that it is only natural to celebrate it fairly unrestrainedly. But it went on for far too long, and the manner of it was just wrong. I actually saw a cameraman walk across Ollie’s line. The worst aspect of it all was to celebrate like that when Olazabal had still to putt. If he had holed it, their match would have still been all square going up the last. As it was, Ollie won the 18th, to halve their singles game, but because he missed on the 17th it meant that Europe could only finish on a maximum of 13? points – which we duly did.

As I look back on the incident now, I feel more and more strongly that Crenshaw, as the United States captain, should have stepped in and conceded Olazabal’s putt. That would still have given Leonard the chance to halve the final hole and thus confirm America’s victory, but it would also have been the best possible response to what happened on that 17th green. It would also have underlined forever what the Ryder Cup should be all about, but instead we got at Brookline what it should never be about.

Extracted from An Enduring Passion: My Ryder Cup Years by Sam Torrance, published by Mainstream in hardback at £16.99. Sam will be signing copies on Tuesday at Waterstones, Jubilee Place, 12 noon, and on Wednesday at Waterstones, London Wall, 12.30, and Waterstones, Ludgate Circus, 3.15.