WE’RE nearly there. It’s within sight. I can smell it in the air. I’m
referring of course to the Ryder Cup. By this I mean the bit where all the
waffle stops, the phoney stories get put away and these blokes actually
start to hit balls. Later today we’ll find out the pairings and then we can
all retreat to a decent bar to think deeply about what it all means.

To be honest, I am still trying to work out what last night’s gala dinner
meant. For a start it was the first serve-yourself-buffet-supper-black-tie
do I’ve ever attended. Food was good but serving oneself? Please. What,
however, was even weirder was the absence of either captain or the teams
from proceedings.

One thousand very decent local people had coughed up 500 bucks each to
attend only to discover that they were not mingling with the week’s stars
but, rather sadly, with each other. I bumped into Sir Michael Bonallack
over pre-dinner drinks – I served him and he served me – and listened while
he told me that the players had demanded this non-attendance because they
had been bothered by so many autograph hunters during the gala dinner in
Dublin two years ago.

Oh, the poor, wee souls. How awful for them. Or to put it another way…what
a bunch of spoiled, up themselves wallies. I responded to Mike’s
explanation by telling him about the moment I popped into the hotel bar
immediately before that Dublin supper in 2006. It was crowded but sitting
at one of the tables, drinking a pint of Guinness and talking to half a
dozen Irishmen he’d just met was a tuxedoed Arnie Palmer.

No hiding for Arnie. And he’d just piloted his plane across the Atlantic.
Now that’s style. Something not many of today’s players possess in
abundance. Eventually the teams did turn up to say hello to us. Or rather
we moved out of the dining area and filed into the theatre next door where
following a ludicrously pompous intro in which an actor pretended to be
Samuel Ryder, the curtains parted and there were the teams, standing on the
sort of curved staircase that Morecambe & Wise used to dance down.

They were each announced, walked down, accepted the applause and walked
off. Last down the stairs were the captains. Faldo & Azinger, official
comedians to golf. Interviewed by some American TV bloke the skippers went
into a well rehearsed routine. Naturally it didn’t work. Then they cleared
off and we all got to go back to the dining place for what was officially
billed as Desserts and Dancing. Ever tried to eat a chocolate mousse while
jigging around with what turned out to be an off-duty Kentucky policewoman?

Thought not. My advice is keep it that way. Roll on the golf. Did I mention
my head hurts?