I listened to a fair bit of the Ryder Cup on the radio last night... sadly I missed the truly remarkable ending to the competition, but in a funny way, I wasn’t actually surprised that the European golfers pulled off what must rank as one of sport’s greatest ever comebacks.
Day in day out, the world’s top sportsmen and women display their respective skills and abilities as they strive to be the best they can be... or the best there is. The spectator might only see the performance that is the culmination of years of dedication, training and hard work and in most team or individual sports, success is rewarded with the kind of money most of us can barely imagine.
When you’re worth a fortune, it’s easy to say that you don’t compete for the money... but I don’t begrudge the rewards to those who can produce their best when it really matters. I believe that in certain sports there isn’t always a vast difference in actual ability between many a household name and the best of the proverbial “men in the street”. I can hit 180 on a dartboard... there will be many who can knock in a 100 break or sink a 40 foot putt, but doing it consistently is one thing... doing it under pressure raises the bar far higher.
Athletic prowess and the determination I’ve already mentioned are prerequisites for any sporting champion, but what sets most “winners” apart is their mental strength, that intangible quality of being able to block out every negative thought and translating that nervous energy into a performance that equals or even betters anything previously achieved. In my own enjoyable but non-descript cricket career, I experienced at first hand the power of the mind and the destructive effects of pressure, so I have nothing but admiration for anyone who can use pressure as a positive.
And this is where the Ryder Cup is so special... it’s not about money... it’s about sport... it’s about doing the best for your-self, but more importantly for the other members of your team. It’s about harnessing the energy and emotion coming from within the team and from the crowds and playing golf shots that arguably no monetary prize can inspire
The Americans collapsed psychologically. They’re all brilliant golfers... they earn a fortune, but this must be pressure like no other... and they simply weren’t able to handle it. That’s not necessarily a criticism... none of us have experienced such a mental burden... it’s simply a fact. The strength of the European team was that it meant more that they won for those who in normal circumstances are rivals than it meant for themselves... just to be part of the team... just to contribute that crucial half point... you can’t buy it, you can’t teach it, it’s something that defines the greatest competitors. It’s some-thing that defines the European Ryder Cup team of 2012.
All my own work... almost.