By Ann Liguori
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There are a lot of festivities the week of the Ryder Cup, making the week even more exciting for the players, sponsors, guests of players and sponsors and others important enough to get tickets to various events. And I was thrilled to be one of the few American journalists/reporters included in the ‘Welcome to Wales Gala Dinner and Show’ and invited by the Welsh Assembly Government where I had the honor of sitting next to Alun Ffred Jones AM, Minister for Heritage, Welsh Assembly Government. Mr. Jones is an elected official and is one of nine Ministers in Wales. He oversees sports and most of the history and culture of the country. And he was no doubt very proud of the amazing show they put on inside the Millennium Stadium in the heart of Cardiff, where the musical talents of the Welsh, the beauty of their country and their culture were showcased on stage, along with both the European and US Ryder Cup players, dressed in tuxedos and their wives in gowns. Amy Mickelson made the trip – she did not arrive on the charter with Phil earlier in the week but got there in time to be introduced on stage at the gala with Phil and the other members of the team and their significant others. Only Tiger was there alone. These pre-competition festivities lend themselves to ‘couples’ but Tiger has been attending the functions ‘solo.’
The actual Ryder Cup trophy was also on display, on stage the entire evening.
Welsh born actress Catherine Zeta Jones welcomed everyone. Prince Charles was also part of the program. Katherine Jenkins, an opera star in Wales who will soon be a huge star in the United States as well, performed. What a voice she has! Dame Shirley Bassey thrilled the crowd with “Goldfinger,’ “Diamonds are Forever” and “Hey Big Spender.” The Welsh singer looks great and can still belt out the tunes and she is in her seventies! And a dashing Welsh actor recited a stirring rendition of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milkwood.” There were other larger groups of performers and they all put on a splendid, touching show, inspiring many of the people in the audience to sing along.
At the course earlier in the day, both teams practiced and got a taste of rainy, soggy conditions in the morning, although it was sunny and beautiful late in the afternoon.
The job of both captains is to keep their strategies to themselves regarding who plays with whom and to keep all potential controversies to a minimum. That is what Cory Pavin did today when he was asked about the possibility of Tiger Woods playing against Irish wunder boy Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy had said in a BBC interview a couple weeks ago that he would welcome the chance to play against Tiger. After Tiger had his career worst finish at the Bridgestone Invitational, McIlroy had said he would love to play Tiger. He said, “Unless his (Tiger’s) game rapidly improves in the next month or so, I think any one on the European team would fancy his chances against him.” When Tiger was told in the press conference that McIlroy wanted to play him, Tiger uttered, “Me too.”
US Team Captain Cory Pavin was asked about McIlroy’s comments and the likelihood of pairing Tiger against McIlroy. The singles matches on Sunday are arranged by a blind draw by the team captains. Pavin paused before responding and then said, “I think other people have said those things to Tiger and they have come to regret it. I think that anything that gets players fired up is always a positive thing for that player who is getting fired up…I know that Tiger is aware of (McIlroy’s) comment. If they do play against each other, it would be quite entertaining. I don’t know if they will. We’ll just have to see where the cards fall, but I think it would be fun for me to watch.”
Nothing like a little trash talk to get these Games off to an exciting start, not to mention, a Tiger – McIlroy pairing on Sunday would be great for ratings!