OPINION: The public perception of the Ryder Cup can define a player's legacy

One player's life can change this weekend with a magical moment at Hazeltine

BY Daniel Kelly 17:39 Thursday 29 September 2016, 17:39 29 Sep 2016

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Getty Images

Can you name the golfer who played in 29 majors and had one top-ten finish coming in the 2006 USPGA Championship? You would need to know a lot about the sport, to get that right.

Can you name the golfer who played on three Ryder Cup teams, winning each time, and then went on to captain Europe to victory in 2014? Most sports fans would correctly answer that player was Paul McGinley.

The Dubliner was also the answer to the first question, and therein lies the power of the Ryder Cup. There is no prize-money on the line, but players can be remembered more for their performances, whether good or bad in the biennial event.

Friday afternoon, will see the two teams begin the 41st matches begin, with a chance at sporting immortality on the line. Despite having a quiet two years, Jamie Donaldson's shot to the 15th hole at Gleneagles two years ago will remain his crowning moment.

Donaldson has won three times on the European Tour, including the 2012 Irish Open. Despite those wins, the picture of the Welsh star pointing his right index finger into the Scottish Autumn sky will be how he is remembered most vividly.

For all the good performances there are through a career, a bumbling performance at the Ryder Cup, can taint a legacy. Nick Faldo remains the most successful European player of all time, having won six major titles.

The most recent memory of Faldo though is as one of the most under-prepared European Ryder Cup captains in recent memory. He led the team in Valhalla in 2008. It remains the only European loss this century.

After being pictured holding a list of potential pairings on one of the practice days before the event, he uttered the words that defined his captaincy.

"It just had the lunch list," Faldo revealed. "It had sandwich requests for the guys, just making sure who wants tuna, who wants the beef, who wants the ham. That's all it was." The US won by five points. Europe's 11.5 points was their lowest since 1981.

This week, Hal Sutton's 2004 captaincy was brought up by Phil Mickelson. Sutton was a former US PGA Champion, had recorded a top-ten finish in all four majors, but is best remembered now as the captain in the stetson.

Sutton and Bernhard Langer at the 2004 Ryder Cup. Picture by: MORRY GASH / AP/Press Association Images

When speaking about his disastrous partnership with Tiger Woods at Oakland Hills, Mickelson pinpointed the blame on the now 58-year-old Louisiana native.

"I'm not trying to throw - to knock anybody here, because I actually loved how decisive Captain Sutton was. I feel like that's a sign of great leadership to be decisive. Had we had time to prepare, I think we would have made it work and could have had some success."

"But that's an example of starting with the captain, that put us in a position to fail and we failed monumentally, absolutely."

Mickelson has since apologised for his comments, but it shows how the Ryder Cup can change a player's career. Sutton had a far more successful career than Paul McGinley, yet it is the Dubliner who is remembered more fondly.

Come Sunday night, the 24 players, captains and backroom staff will come together, no matter what the result. There will be drinks, some laughs and even a few games of table-tennis. Those players will return to the lives next week, playing for money the regular man cannot dream off.

A player such as Rafa Cabrero-Bello or JB Holmes could win next week, but if they produce the moment of the weekend at the Ryder Cup in the coming days, that's what they will be remembered for by the public.

There lies the importance of what will happen at Hazeltine.

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