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Driven to drink by the responsibilities of the Ryder Cup

Forget wind farms.

Sam Torrance celebrates winning the 1985 Ryder Cup   Photograph: Getty
Sam Torrance celebrates winning the 1985 Ryder Cup Photograph: Getty

The landscape of Scotland in 2014 should really feature a series of giant clocks and industrial-sized megaphones blaring out the tick-tock theme to Countdown given our enthusiasm for chalking off the days until the country's sporting showpieces swing into action. If we're not drooling over the calendar ahead of the Commonwealth Games, then we're gazing at the hands of time as they slowly birl towards the Ryder Cup.

It's 201 days until the great golfing gathering in Gleneagles and if Paul McGinley, the European captain, thought he was busy now, what with all the chores of the increasingly fevered build-up, then the Irishman knows that those three September days in Perthshire will be even more fraught.

Perhaps it's a good job, then, that he has that wily old campaigner Sam Torrance by his side. "Whisky," replied Torrance with a smile, when asked what the best way was to ensure a good night's sleep amid the din of the biennial battle. As a winning skipper 12 years ago, and a veteran of eight matches as a player, the 60-year-old has plenty of experience of the tumultuous tossing and turning that the matches produce. Off the course, though, it appears the transatlantic tussle can be the ideal cure for insomniacs.

"I can help Paul on that because your day is so busy from morning to night that, by that time, you are cream-crackered and you sleep like a baby," said Torrance, who was unveiled as one of McGinley's vice-captains last Thursday along with the Irishman Des Smyth. "When I was captain, it was probably the best week's sleep I had ever had as I was so tired."

No need for a skipper's nightcap, then. But what about the players? Stepping on to the first tee, amid the racket that is generated by those packed in on the sidelines, can be bad enough. Trudging back into the locker room having failed in the quest for a priceless point is worse. While the sight of Torrance standing on the 18th green at The Belfry, with his arms and putter aloft in triumph having holed the winning putt in the 1985 match, remains one of the contest's enduring images, the Scot is well aware that for all the highs there can be crushing lows.

"There's no question that playing in a Ryder Cup was the most nervous thing in my career," he said. "If you've come off the last green having three-putted as an individual, even to lose a tournament, you get over it pretty quickly. But in a Ryder Cup when you've got to walk into a team room, where the others have been heroes that day but you've lost, is a terrible feeling. And they know you've lost as soon as you walk in there.

"As a vice-captain, you have to do whatever you can to help the players enjoy it. You have to make sure they see the reality of what is going on but, at the same time, you have to make sure they are chilling out at night and enjoying it. That's not an easy thing."

Maybe that whisky will come in handy after all.

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