I went to the Ryder Cup opening ceremony so you didn't have to

The Scoop

Alex Perry views the Ryder Cup opening ceremony as a bit, well, naff. So naturally he went bounding along to soak up the Le Golf National Thursday showpiece

Gone are the days when the European Ryder Cup team and their rivals from across the Atlantic hated each other.

Like, actually hated each other. Now, most of our boys play on the PGA Tour and they’re all best mates with their rivals.

“For one week, they’re not my friends,” Rory McIlroy told reporters at the start of the week, rather unconvincingly. Oh how I long for the days of a Seve snarl, or Dave Hill threatening to wrap his 1-iron round Bernard Gallacher’s head.

And, as with any sport, all the niceties of the actual action must be preluded by an opening ceremony.

Oh god, the opening ceremony. They’re going to say nice things to each other, aren’t they? If Thomas Bjorn gets up there and tells Jim Furyk he can’t wait for Europe to smash their rivals all over this corner of Paris, all is forgiven.

Against my better judgement I shuffle over to where it is all happening, namely a bit of wasteland just off the side of the 17th fairway.

As I approach I can hear the delicious accent of former football pin-up David Ginola. Speaking in English, obviously. We are in France, after all.

“Please welcome to the stage… The Kaiser Chiefs!”

What? The Kaiser Chiefs? Their first album came out when I was at university, which was about 15 years ago. I didn’t even know they were still a thing. (I wasn’t really surprised, I knew ages ago they were playing here because, well, it was announced. And they closed out the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. How come the Kaiser Chiefs are suddenly golf’s go-to guys?)

They smash through their 2007 hit Ruby in front of thousands of confused, largely American and European, faces then Mr Ginola comes back to introduce the teams.

The players stride onto the stage to great fanfare, low-fiving the fans gathered either side of their platform. They’ve obviously been watching too much darts.

Now, the reason we’re all standing in this beer-soaked field – the captain’s speeches. Can a Ryder Cup be won or lost in these speeches? Well, no, obviously not – but they sure as hell can set the tone.

Furyk’s is exactly what I expect. Short, sharp sentences with pauses for polite applause or hollering and whooping, depending on the levels of alcohol consumed. The American skipper speaks with class and integrity. I even choke up a little.

He runs through his team – a short cheer greets each player – apart from a couple of boos for Patrick Reed – and a monstrous roar for Tiger Woods. He blushes, his team-mates giggle. A lovely moment that I still have to pinch myself that I’m a part of.

Then it is Bjorn’s turn. He stands at the plinth and soaks in the cries of “Ole! Ole! Ole!”

His speech is more passionate – and wonderfully political. He speaks of Europe as a “fragmented continent”, how the Ryder Cup “unites us like nothing else”, and how “more than anything we will fight for that flag”.

He stops short of “F*** Brexit!” – but my gut feeling tells me he was mighty tempted.

Bjorn, like his counterpart, introduces the sun-baked masses to his team. Ian Poulter beats his fist against his chest, the American fans boo.

That’s it, my friends, feed the Ryder Cup GOAT. Feed him your animosity. You’ll see what happens.

Then comes French singer Jain to sing her latest hit single (I presume) and all the players fix their eyes literally anywhere else to avoid a Tiger Woods-Katherine Jenkins-Celtic Manor faux pas. You know the one…

Mr Ginola then introduces a short film. “Here is what the Ryder Cup means to golf fans around the world,” he says enthusiastically as the fans, rather ironically, file away in their hundreds.

“Right,” he screams into his microphone, “who will win the 2018 Ryder Cup?”

No one’s listening, David. They’re all at the bar.

And so am I. This nonsense has been going on for almost an hour and a half now. A largely confusing hour and a half, at that.

I, like many, it seems, will rely on Twitter for the opening fourballs announcement. Can it just be Friday morning now, please?

More from the Ryder Cup

Previous article
Next article
Top