Scottish sports comment: It was simply one of those “where were you when...” moments late on Sunday night as Europe’s golfers staged one of the most astounding comebacks ever witnessed anywhere in sport to win the Ryder Cup amid the autumnal gloaming of the US midwest.
In the immediate aftermath of their monumental achievement many of the Europeans struggled for words. Little wonder, having been 10-6 down to a dazzling US team going into the final day of singles matches.
Sure we hoped they could pull it off, but did we really believe the “Miracle of Medinah” was on? Not a bit of it. What should have been factored in was the gloriously infectious will to win of Ian Poulter and the spirit of the late, great Severiano Ballesteros.
Scotland has now inherited one hell of an event to be played at Gleneagles two years from now. The Ryder Cup somehow manages to consistently heap more drama and emotion into its story each time it appears in the calendar, and in doing so raises the old game of golf ever closer to the gods.
A beaming First Minister Alex Salmond was there at the closing ceremony outside Chicago to receive the ceremonial silver putter from the US organisers signifying that the competition is returning to the home of golf for the first time in more than 40 years.
There are good reasons why Mr Salmond saw fit to jet across the Atlantic at the head of his country’s delegation.
The Ryder Cup is expected to draw a quarter of a million visitors from around the world to Perthshire and beyond. Golf tourism already provides the Scottish economy with nearly £250 million a year, directly supporting 4,000 jobs.
The battle between Europe and the US in 2014 is forecast to add another £100m onto that figure, and showcase the country to a global television audience in the region of half a billion.
As Salmond himself said of the year that will also see Glasgow host the Commonwealth Games “the eyes of the world will be on Scotland.”
There is a happy coincidence in this for those of a nationalist persuasion. A well organised and highly successful sporting occasion can inject a very tangible feel-good factor into a country and its people. We need look no further than the recent example of the London Olympics and Paralympics for evidence of that.
The First Minister — and no fool he — cannot have failed to spot the immense political bounty apparent in the timing of golf’s great biennial carnival coming to Scotland’s shores.
With an independence referendum due in the afterglow of the Glasgow Games and less than a month on from the Gleneagles gathering Salmond may well feel that the next chapter in the history of old Sam Ryder’s trophy can do far more for his own hopes and dreams than any VIP trip across the pond could ever accomplish.
Wonderful news that Darren Fletcher has returned to health and full-time football after a year-long fight against a chronic bowel complaint which not so long ago seemed to threaten his future in the game.
Back in the fold with Manchester United the midfielder immediately made it clear he was “desperate to be involved” in Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers against Wales and Belgium later this month. Sure enough his name was prominent among the squad revealed yesterday for the two make or break fixtures.
The Scotland manager Craig Levein has described Fletcher as “inspirational” and there is no arguing he is badly needed. It would be a significant boost to add his quality to a side who were miserably flat and woefully predictable in the draws with Serbia and Macedonia.
As one of the game’s real competitors the 28-year-old seems to have an old-fashioned sense of responsibility as Scotland captain and figurehead of the team. If he is playing for his club he will expect to fully commit to the dark blue too.
Yet I suspect Fletcher’s enthusiasm may need to be tempered a little. It cannot be overlooked that he is being eased gingerly back into professional football by his manager and that is certainly a wise policy under the circumstances.
Though Sir Alex Ferguson has given his blessing to the midfielder being called up there is still a need for caution, for we cannot allow this young man to put Scotland’s chances of making it to Brazil before his own long-term health.
Nor should miracles be expected of a single player returning from a debilitating illness and severely lacking game time. It is one thing to complete the odd 90 minutes in a domestic setting, it is quite another to undertake the high intensity of fully competitive international football matches with a country’s hopes riding on the outcome.
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