It is often said that there is no more nervous situation for a golfer than the prospect of hitting the opening tee shot at the Ryder Cup.
This morning, that responsibility fell on the slender shoulders of Jim Furyk. Surrounded by an enormous and vociferous international crowd, the world number two appeared unflapable as he drilled a nerveless drive right down the middle of the fairway.
The same could not be said of Tiger Woods’ assault on the opening hole. To the gasps of sheer suprise from the army of spectators, Woods pull hooked his drive into the water that lines the left side of this hole. Provoking a unfamiliar, tentative drive from the world’s best golfer, this unique event has never seemed to carry so much importance.
The biggest roar of the day, of course, was reserved for Darren Clarke. The Ulsterman walked onto the first tee amidst deafening cries – a genuine swell of goodwill towards a man who has recently lost his wife to cancer. Clarke would have been forgiven for letting his focus slip but instead he pulled out his driver (an aggressive strategy from the first tee at the K Club) and proceeded to split the fairway.
The 36th Ryder Cup is off with an ear-piercing bang. The Irish crowd have lived up to their pre-match hype for providing a noisy and emotional reception. Regardless of whatever happens next, this is going to be a sporting occassion that no-one should miss.