Heat turned up as Ryder rivalry resumes

FIVE jet pilots used smoke plumes to script “Welcome to the 37th Ryder Cup” in the sky — officially re-igniting America and Europe’s intense biannual golfing rivalry.

The 2008 competition was formally opened yesterday with obligatory bagpipes, a parade of former heroes and a course visit from Kentucky’s own legend Muhammad Ali.

The crowds cracked open beers and soaked up the sun as officials welcomed the 24 players and raised flags for each country they represented.

Among the swelling crowd were Irish supporters Eoin Hourihan, Shane Kelly and Colin Kelly from Ballyvolane, Cork and Joe O’Sullivan from Glanmire, who flew into Louisville on Wednesday night, donned quasi leprechaun outfits for yesterday’s practice round and had autographs for all 12 European players by the time the ceremony started.

All four men set their hearts on coming last year and booked the trip for €2,500.

“We didn’t get to go to the K-Club so we just stumbled on this last October and it worked out,” said Colin.

Kieran Crehan a veteran follower of three Ryder Cups sacrificed watching Sunday’s All Ireland Final but his priority was to return and see America’s 1999 victory avenged.

Yesterday Kieran, a PGA professional at Dunloe golf club near Killarney, sat on the 7th green planning his weekend strategy.

“It is not like the K-Club where you can see a lot of holes from the one area. I suppose we will find a spot to watch a few play through and then move,” he said.

Another Ryder Cup veteran was the mastermind of Ireland’s successful bid for the 2006 event, Michael Smurfit.

Now retired, he will be among the few corporate types free to relax once the competition begins this morning.

Elsewhere a mass of weary executives, finished with their week’s work, will hope the warrior’s heaven, Valhalla, can ease the memories of recent losses on investment battled grounds.

All week the corporate tents have been largely deserted but the names on the doors read as a roll-call of those fighting to survive the current blood-letting on international stock markets.

In the Worchester tented village guests of US Bancorp and Swiss group UBS will gather.

The former took one of this week’s hardest Wall Street hammerings.

The latter is considered Europe’s worst affected bank.

Across the lawn “Moortown Village” hosts Chase JP Morgan, National City Bank and Aegon.

The first was central to rescue efforts for Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns.

The second spent Monday seeking $4.6 billion to secure its own survival.

And the third stands to lose more money from this month’s Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy than the entire Louisville economy expects to make from hosting the Ryder Cup.

However, all of the hospitality suites were sold-out to the usual suspects from the financial world generating $23m.

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