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TEE TO GREEN, STEVE SCOTT: It was time to move on from the Ryder Cup old guard anyway

Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia were a formidable partnership at three Ryder Cups.
Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia were a formidable partnership at three Ryder Cups.

When I first saw Sergio Garcia play, he threw a wobbly.

As I alluded to a couple of weeks ago, this was in the last 16 of the British Boys Championship of 1995, at Dunbar Golf Club in East Lothian.

Sergio was just 15, yet clearly ‘elegido’, the chosen one. He was treated like a prince by the Spanish coaching team there as back-up.

In the last 16, he played Mark Donaldson, a likeable big lunk from Kirkcaldy who played so fast I once saw him hit a ball before his previous shot had actually landed out of bounds.

Mark was a good player – a Scottish Boys finalist, internationalist and later a Scottish Amateur runner-up. He and Sergio were tied on the 18th tee.

If you don’t know Dunbar (and you should, it’s a great course) there’s a huge sandstone wall that runs right through the middle of the course. Hit over it – even when there’s a hole in play on either side, such as between the fourth and 18th fairways – it’s out of bounds.

Sergio carved his drive on 18 over the wall. He didn’t seem to know this was OB, and his reaction to this news was, shall we say, temperamental. I don’t know Spanish but you didn’t need to know it to get the gist. He lost the hole, and the match, to Mark’s par.

Not much has changed in 22 years

Okay, he was just 15 then. Yet he’s never lost the teenage trigger that wavers on the verge of a tantrum.

Even 27 years later, in his early 40s as a Masters champion, the greatest accumulator of Ryder Cup points ever, and a father of two. He’s still too often that 15-year-old.

And his actions in exiting the BMW PGA Championship on Friday without explanation have maybe burned his bridges for good.

It was the start of the qualification for the matches in Rome next year at Wentworth at the weekend. Captain Luke Donald has six wildcard picks, the most ever for Europe.

Room for one last go around for the old crew, no matter where they play these days? That would, you’d think, include Garcia. He and Donald were 4-1 as a foursomes partnership at three different Ryder Cups.

But Garcia was pictured with his wife less than 48 hours after leaving Wentworth, smiling broadly pitch-side at the Texas-Alabama college football game in Austin.

The only thing missing from the picture was two fingers up at the Tour he’d professed to want to support so badly at the start of the week.

Garcia will probably be fined, but it’s unlikely he’ll pay it. More likely he’ll play the victim as he so often does. Even those of us who have been over-tolerant of his various nonsenses over the years (guilty!) have lost patience.

We thought they were moving on a year ago…what’s changed?

And anyway, it is really time to move on from him and the old Ryder Cup guard, and face up to what comes next, whether it’s good or bad.

That time has really come to an end for Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey and for Garcia. At the end of the shellacking at Whistling Straits last year they were in tears, in full knowledge this was most likely their last time.

What’s happened in the interim to have changed their and our minds on this? Well, they’ve all gone to LIV Golf. Donald was reportedly fielding phone calls from them last week. But it’s highly unlikely he’ll entertain – or be allowed to entertain – their selection.

Really, that is as it should be – even if LIV wasn’t here.

Europe has actually done okay out of the defections, arguably better than the USA.

Sure, there’s all those past European points gone. But the US has lost Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka. All of whom were good for at least another three editions.

A strong core

Yes, their production line will provide quality replacements for them. But I really like the core that Europe now has – McIlroy, Rahm, Fitzpatrick, Lowry, Hovland, Hatton and Fleetwood.

Maybe Francesco Molinari can continue his comeback – you know he’ll strain every sinew to play a Ryder Cup in his homeland. Remember him in Paris?

Then you just need four other guys. Someone’s going to emerge in the next year, most likely more than one. And Europe’s record of turning one-off picks into giants in Ryder Cup action never gets old.

There were fears the Ryder Cup might have been eviscerated by golf’s civil wars. The President’s Cup, being played later this month, seems to have been hammered.

But on reflection I’m looking forward to Rome with renewed relish. The clearout that needed to happen is going to happen, and I have no doubt that Europe and Donald will find a way to be properly competitive.

Good guys, bad guys

I’m absolutely no fan of LIV Golf as regular readers know, but Shane Lowry’s declaration that his win at Wentworth was “one for the good guys” – ie those not in LIV – grated a little.

It’s a self-aggrandising comment you’re not used to hearing from Shane, who IS generally one of the good, and modest, guys.

I guess it underlines his strength of feeling. While there’s a variance of views – you’re not going to get 160 independent people in any organisation to be unanimous – I do think there’s a clear majority that resented the presence of the LIVers at Wentworth.

Graeme McDowell suggested that instead of further legal wranglings, there should be a simple vote of the DP World membership to decide if the LIVers can play.

That seems to me to be entirely fair.