Laureus joy for Ryder Cup duo?
Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke (Reuters)
Cape Town - With the Laureus World Sport Awards
in Rio de Janeiro little more than a fortnight away, two key members of Europe’s triumphant Ryder Cup team - England star Lee Westwood and Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, one of Europe’s vice-captains - have reflected proudly on the team effort that inspired one of golf’s greatest ever team performances.
“It’s always special to play in the Ryder Cup, but apart from the K-Club, I can’t think of anything more special than what was achieved last year,” reflected Westwood, who played a key role in Europe’s come-from-behind victory over the United States.
“Very few people gave us a chance. In fact, I think there were more people thinking we could do it within the team room than there were outside it.”
“I don’t really look on it from a personal standpoint, but there is great pride in being part of the European Tour, and all the success it has had in team golf’s greatest competition,” Clarke added.
“There is no greater evidence of team ethic than within the European Tour locker room. We all know one another, travel together, stay in the same places and mix together. We are a team before the team is known.”
It’s exactly that sense of unity that has the European Ryder Cup winners competing for the Laureus Team of the Year Award
, lining up against the Miami Heat, Spain’s men’s footballers, China’s Olympic table tennis team, the United States men’s basketballers, and Formula One’s Red Bull team. Seemingly down and out on Saturday, Europe somehow clawed their way for an extraordinary result on American soil.
“The way we finished the Saturday matches, mainly thanks to Ian Poulter, had us heading into the final day believing that Mission Impossible may not be as impossible as many people felt,” Westwood explained of the catalyst that sparked Europe’s comeback. “As Journey sang: ‘Don’t stop believing’.”
The incredible self-belief could translate into two Laureus Awards
, with Europe unsurprisingly also nominated in the Laureus Comeback
category. They’re not the only golfers in contention, however, as South Africa’s Ernie Els is also on the shortlist after his fantastic win at the Open Championship in 2012.
“It was a wonderful performance, and reminiscent of what Nick Faldo used to do - hang around, see how things develop, post a score and let everything else unfold,” said Clarke, winner of the Open the year before Els.
“I’m hoping that Ernie and Darren Clarke are setting the standard as far as over 40’s winning Majors is concerned,” a smiling Westwood added.
“Ernie did what he had to do, and he did it brilliantly. I’m not sure it was a comeback win though. I never thought he’d been away.”
Both Westwood and Clarke are good friends of Els, and would be quite happy to see their golfing compatriot win the Comeback Award
. But should Europe win either of the two awards they’re nominated for, both men would be extremely proud.
“As awards go, they don’t come any bigger in the world of sport, so it would mean a great deal,” Westwood enthused.
Clarke concurred: “It would be huge, and further evidence that the European Tour has huge strength in depth.”
Neither golfer could pick a winner in any of the other categories – “I’m just glad I don’t have to decide; they are all magnificent champions,” Westwood’s opinion – but the Englishman did pay tribute to the work the Laureus Sport For Good Foundation continues to do around the world. “It is extremely important, because without Laureus, sport would be deprived of the kind of backing it desperately needs.”
Come March 11 in Rio de Janeiro, both Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke may have another reason or two to celebrate Laureus.