Trophy no-shows no problem

  • By: Ben Coley
  • Last Updated: September 27 2013, 7:44 BST

Our golf editor Ben Coley believes the absence of world stars from next week's Seve Trophy is both predictable and understandable.

Seve's silhouette on the European Ryder Cup bags

To the surprise of most who know my face, I am still a relatively young man. I'm 27, in fact, and still prone to behaving like the students currently swarming around the city I live in with that horribly hopeful vibe.

So it stands to reason that my golfing memory bank is full not of Arnold Palmer's everyman charms or the metronomic brilliance of Jack Nicklaus, but of Ryder Cups at Medinah and the K Club; of Tiger Woods demolishing fields for all-the-way wins; of Van de Velde and Montgomerie and absolute heartbreak.

Fortunately, it's impossible to develop a love for this sport without an awareness of those who played their part earlier on, and that's why I regret not being around to see Seve Ballesteros at his brilliant best. Sure, I saw him play in the late-1990s and had a vague idea of what he represented, but it's only through reading about him that I begin to understand how important he was and how missed he is.

Next week I'll watch the Seve Trophy with interest. It's golf, after all. But for all that I'll do so with the great man in mind, it's not the event I associate him with.

As a playing captain, he produced some memorable tussles with Colin Montgomerie and under his leadership Continental Europe enjoyed huge success, but it's an event which has yet to truly capture the imagination. Even Sir Nick Faldo - competitor extraordinaire - once said winning it wasn't essential.

I have my theory as to why it just doesn't matter that much.

The Ryder Cup is among the premier sports events and provokes partisan support on both sides of the Atlantic. Europe is a collective force, one strong enough to conquer the might of America, and I'm far from alone in buying into it for three days, once every two years.

How, then, am I supposed to find strong anti-Europe feelings for the Seve Trophy? Why should I desert Nicolas Colsaerts should he come face-to-face with Lee Westwood, the man he heaved to a one-up victory over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker on his Ryder Cup debut?

Am I to abandon Ryder Cup darling Sergio Garcia too, after he somehow combined with Luke Donald to beat Stricker and Woods before going on to gain a crucial point against Jim Furyk?

It's a conflict I can't overcome and my allegiance will always be with Europe and the Ryder Cup. So when I watch the Seve Trophy, I won't mind a jot who wins and while that may not seem important, what it does mean is that should someone offer to make me a succulent Sunday roast I won't reply 'sorry, golf is on'.

Why then should I expect the players themselves to find passion for the event? The answer, it seems, is because it's Seve's. It's named after him, for God's sake. Except that we all know that Seve himself wouldn't have put it anywhere close to the Ryder Cup and for good reason.

Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter have decided not to play. Six men who carried Seve's silhouette on their Ryder Cup bags and spoke of him afterwards.

"You know what, whether it's this good man right on my left sleeve right now that's going to pull us through this or Ollie, I don't know," said Poulter after his match-winning heroics. "Coming off the green here, I've looked down on my left sleeve and that's the kind of thing Seve would have done for sure," added Rose, and in some quarters these words have been questioned now as neither makes the trip to France.

Their own team-mate Paul Lawrie has expressed his disappointment, while noted veteran of the press room John Huggan tweeted 'disappointed by absence of so many players from seve trophy. Especially those who expressed such devotion to the great man at last Ryder cup.'

Are we really to conclude that absence from the Seve Trophy means those words uttered at Medinah are now hollow, that they were for the cameras only and had no deeper meaning? I'm not buying into that for a second.

In an ideal world, the Seve Trophy would mean more than it does and those six players would turn out next week in Seve blue. But, hold on, are they to take inspiration from a man who would've been their opponent in France? Now I'm confused again.

What I'm sure of is that the absence of these players owes more to the current state of golf. It's all very well noting that the American players strive to get in the Presidents Cup side, but there are several key differences, top of which is the fact that they don't now have to make enemies of previous team-mates.

The second reason, one which becomes more relevant with each passing year, is that the season isn't over for European players. Having fought for two majors and three WGCs already as well as the riches offered by the FedEx Cup, they've now got to prepare for the end of the Race To Dubai, upon which the WGC HSBC Champions will have a significant bearing.

Some of the Americans will play that, too, and the odd one will appear in Australia for their key tournaments or even in Turkey or Malaysia for a big cheque. But their priorities have been and gone, and not until January will they begin another grind. For Europeans, the grind continues.

Consider too that these six players all have homes in America and they all have families. They also have other commitments - some charitable, some commercial - and it's not for me or anyone else to judge from afar which they should prioritise, and certainly not to question their love of Europe's most important golfer without looking at the opposing argument.

Were I to speculate, I'd say the key commitment for all six is to the Ryder Cup, and the best way to show that is by producing the goods in these events in which success for them would all but secure a ticket to Gleneagles next autumn.

And when America visit again, I hope all six continue to use Seve as their inspiration and remind those doubters how important he was and always will be to golf in Europe, regardless of what happens in France next week.


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