Sunday, September 19, 2004
Euros sure know how to celebrate a win
By Wayne Drehs ESPN.com
BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- There was no room to move. Even less to breathe. But nobody seemed to mind. The sea of bodies just kept swaying. To the left, the right and back to the left again.
They were squeezed into an area no bigger than a tee box, puffing on cigarettes, using national flags as capes and singing Christmas carols with the names of European golfers tossed in. Shoulder to shoulder, chest to back, they sang, they laughed and they jumped.
And then they got their ultimate wish.
Captain Langer was swarmed by Euro fans, who just wanted to join in the celebration.
The man they had been courting for 20 minutes, the man that had made the Cup clinching putt, the oldest European wild-card pick ever, made his way to the chaos.
Forty-one year-old Colin Montgomerie, riding an emotional roller coaster after finalizing his divorce last week, couldn't resist. He waved. He shook hands. And as he got closer, he leaned into the fray and was absorbed.
The swarm erupted.
"COLIN!! ... clap, clap, clap ... COLIN!! ... clap, clap, clap ... COLIN!! clap, clap, clap.
"We love Montgomerie ... we love Montgomerie ... we love Montgomerie, yes we do."
Ryder Cup celebrations have always been legendary. While Super Bowls and World Series are often celebrated in the locker room or, worse yet, in a choreographed on-field ceremony, Ryder Cup parties are instinctive.
There was U.S. captain Dave Stockton getting tossed into the Atlantic Ocean following the American win at Kiawah in 1991. There were nine different Americans squeezing on a clubhouse balcony built for two and spraying champagne over everyone at Brookline in 1999.
And then there was Sunday. With the outcome decided early, a throng of Europeans circled the 18th green and converted one of American golf's most sacred lands into their very own Wembley Stadium.
"It's a buzz. It's the best buzz you can ever imagine," said European team member Ian Poulter. "This is why you hit all the balls. This is why you practice as long as you do. So you can win something like this, in another country, close your eyes, listen to the fans and feel like you're at home. I've never seen anything like it."
If the singing, dancing and cheering wasn't enough, there were the outfits. Soccer jerseys -- from England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain and Germany -- littered the gallery. One European fan standing along the 18th fairway was dressed from head-to-toe like William Wallace, the Scottish hero Mel Gibson portrayed in the movie Braveheart. Three others were dressed like old English knights, complete with metal headgear.
The Euro fans put little blue flags in their hats. Their shoes. Their shirt pockets. Pants pockets. And they made winning and losing seem like life and death. Imagine the celebration if the Americans had won the Cup. There'd be applause, probably a thunderous roar or two and then it would be over. There'd be no singing. No dancing. Nobody dressed like Abe Lincoln. Or George Washington.
It was like the Americans cheered for their Ryder Cuppers like Laker fans while the Euros backed their superstars like it was the Sugar Bowl and they had graduated from LSU.
The players reflected the fans. With the overall match well in doubt and his individual match all square, Darren Clarke teed off on the treacherous 18th hole, started walking down the fairway and stopped. He reached into his bag, pulled out a cigar, pulled out a lighter and lit up. Right there on 18, on one of the biggest holes of his life, he lit a cigar.
Some ten minutes later, when Montgomerie's Cup-clinching putt fell at 4:33 p.m., the party was on.
It started with a simple singing of "Ole" and continued with the singing of all sorts of strange songs that every European fan from all sorts of different countries seemed to know.
"The Ryder Cup's coming home ... we know, we know ... it's coming home."
"Whoa, Bernhard Langer. Whoa, Bernhard Langer. Walking along, singing a song, walking in a winter wonderland."
"We love you Monty, yes we do. We love you Monty, yes we do. Oh Monty we love you."
"Super Super Paul, Super Super Paul, Super Paul McGinley."
"Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle All the way. Oh what fun it is to say that Europe won today."
Back in their homeland, they're called hooligans and their senseless tomfoolery is often the only way European soccer highlights make their way to American TV. On Sunday, the passion was contagious. And the players loved it.
There was Thomas Levet, coming up the 18th green, finishing his match with Fred Funk and then immediately standing before the group, orchestrating their cheers like Peyton Manning leading the Tennessee band before his final home game.
That went on for some 15 minutes until the last group arrived, Padraig Harrington and Jay Haas. But the cheering, the singing, the dancing didn't stop -- until the European caddies gathered behind the green, finally motioning them to shut-up.
Harrington's approach shot landed some 15 feet behind the hole, some five feet in front of the group. As Harrington eyed his putt, his teammates were back in the fairway, dousing one another with champagne.
"Oh I saw them alright," Harrington said. "They were right in my sightline. It wasn't exactly an easy situation."
Yet he nailed the putt. Which created another eruption. And the celebration continued. Fans singing and dancing for their heroes. The heroes tossing golf balls, gloves, hats, even their cleats in appreciation.
When will it end? The Euros have an 8 a.m. flight back to London and several of them confessed there is no way they will see a bed Sunday night. Lee Westwood went one step further, warning the homeland about their imminent arrival.
"We're not getting to bed tonight, there's no question about that. And we certainly aren't going to get any rest on that flight home," Westwood said. "And when we get off that plane at Heathrow tomorrow, there's going to be a bunch of people waiting for us. But I've got to warn them -- we're probably not going to make any sense at all."
And don't worry, teammate and close friend Darren Clarke insisted, they won't be drinking and driving.
"Oh no," Clarke said. "There will be no driving involved. Just walking. Actually, no, falling over. Probably not walking."
Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Wayne.Drehs@espn3.com.