The way things are shaping up, there will for the first time be golfers from non-EU countries on the European Ryder Cup team for the match at Whistling Straits in September – and in saying that I’m not taking a punt on a debut for Norway’s Viktor Hovland, who helped his cause by just winning for the first time on the PGA Tour. I’m thinking Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood and more.
Of course, although Boris Johnson was keen to proclaim that he had got “Brexit done” on January 31, for the remainder of this year we, the United Kingdom, are ‘in transition’, effectively members of the European Union without having any say in the organisation’s decision-making processes. Think of it as the equivalent of Padraig Harrington’s three captain’s picks being at the discretion of his opposite number, Steve Stricker.
But what about down the road, the next one of which will lead to Rome in 2022? There will be no change; the flag with the yellow stars will remain the branding the team will play under. Now, before Nigel Farage chokes on his marmite sandwich (or should I wait a while to give that the chance to happen?), let’s be clear that Keith Pelley & Co at the European Tour’s HQ in Surrey have not gone all Sturgeonesque and declared independence for Wentworth. Rather, the situation is explained thus by Scott Crockett, communications director of the European Tour.
“The reason we will not [change] is because the flag does not solely represent the political entity of the European Union, it also represents the Council of Europe (CoE) as a symbol of the whole of Europe geographically. As the Ryder Cup has always been a geographical representation of the countries within the physical boundaries of Europe, not political ones, then there is no reason to change the flag we use. Players from Great Britain and Northern Ireland will still qualify to play under the CoE flag in 2022.” Not forgetting Viktor, either.
Or Seve Ballesteros, for that matter. It should not be forgotten that it was down to the exploits of the late Spanish genius that when, after the 1977 match, it was finally decided that the Great Britain & Ireland team needed some reinforcements in order to be able to make a fist of it against the might of the United States, it was from continental Europe that help was sought rather than from, say, the Commonwealth. And the outcome of that? A four-decade history which shows the European team in the ascendant and – an utter rarity – an event at which about 20,000 Daily Telegraph readers will gleefully chant ‘Europe, Europe.’ I tell you, our prime minister never heard that at a Conservative party conference.
So as the Ryder Cup heads towards its centenary in 2027 (albeit the matches are now staged in the even-numbered years), it seems that as well as the European team including golfing stars from the UK there will continue to be stars on the logo. From a partisan perspective in the short term, we have to hope our stars don’t get striped by the Americans at Whistling Straits.
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