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Sam Torrance: we'll do what it takes to get Ryder Cup edge on US at Gleneagles

With a cocktail in one hand and a cigar so colossal it looks more like a draught excluder in the other, Sam Torrance was in his element.

Sam Torrance,  the Europe Ryder Cup vice-captain,  is happy to admit that Gleneagles  will favour the home side in September.  Picture: Patrick Bolger/Getty Images
Sam Torrance, the Europe Ryder Cup vice-captain, is happy to admit that Gleneagles will favour the home side in September. Picture: Patrick Bolger/Getty Images

Well, he was until those pesky golf writers barged on to the scene and interrupted his reflective tranquillity as he stood on the steps of the Gleneagles Hotel and absorbed its majestic splendour.

Torrance was more than happy to natter away, mind you. The Ryder Cup is one of his favourite subjects and with the biennial battle now just 100 days away, Europe's vice-captain is getting that sniff of competition in his nostrils.

Under the gaze of Paul McGinley, the meticulous Europe team captain, the PGA Centenary course is being tinkered and tickled in an effort to bolster home advantage. Torrance, one of the Irishman's vice-captains, knows all about this tactical tweaking, of course.

"I was a sneaky little so-and-so when I was captain at The Belfry," he said with the kind of mischievous cackle that sounded like Sid James uttering a smutty aside in a Carry On film. "It's home advantage so we've got to try to set it up to suit Europe. I don't want to wish bad weather on the tournament but if it was cold, wet and miserable it would be to our advantage. Paul has asked for a lot of run-off areas around the greens because the Americans are not quite accustomed to that.

"It's about getting the slightest edges. If you look at Manchester United, they hose the pitch 20 minutes before kick-off so the place is like an ice rink and the ball moves so fast. That's what home advantage is all about: setting it up to suit you. There's nothing untoward or hidden about that."

Torrance certainly doesn't hide his desire to see a Scot in the Europe team. Stephen Gallacher, currently enjoying his best year on tour, carries the hopes of a nation but there is still a huge amount to do and the scale of his task is colossal. Gallacher is well aware of that and, amid the relentless Ryder Cup chatter, the 39-year-old is happy to keep ploughing on quietly. Torrance knows how all-consuming the qualification process can become.

"I have spoken to him quite a bit but we don't need to talk about Ryder Cup because he knows what's required," added Torrance. "You don't want to put pressure on them.

"I remember one year when I was trying to qualify, we got to the last counting event and I had to finish top five to make it.

"So I'm lying second with two holes to go and I doubled bogeyed the 17th. I didn't know at that point whether it had put me out of the top five but what I did know was that I had to make par. Fortunately I got that par and I got in. That shows how much more difficult it is as soon as you start thinking about it."

The transatlantic contest has defined Torrance's career. Having played in the event eight times, and captained the team to glory in 2002, the 60-year-old has experienced all the myriad highs and lows that come with golf's greatest team tussle.

"The memory that sticks out is in 1983 having just lost at West Palm Beach by a point," recalled Torrance of that 14½-13½ defeat. "I was going from 1981 where it was my first Ryder Cup to facing this daunting prospect of playing the best American team ever assembled. We never dreamed we had a chance there but in '83 we came so close and we all thought we really should have won that. That night on the Sunday, we all swore to each other that we would be back in 1985 and we would win. And we did."

Since then, the Europeans have won eight, and drawn one, of the last 13 Ryder Cup clashes. Never one to turn down the opportunity for indulging in a decent libation, there has been plenty of glass-clinking during this glory run.

"After we won in 2002, Lee Westwood came and found me and says 'Sam, you've got to come to the bar'," reflected Torrance. "It's about 1.30 in the morning and you cannot move for people. Westwood's been finding the players, getting them up on this couch and announcing them like the American boxing announcer in the ring.

"He announces my missus Suzanne and me, and the crowd went mad. Then he's getting Phillip Price, who beat Phil Mickelson, up and I hear Price smacking Westwood on the arse shouting 'tell them who I beat, tell them who I beat!' I'll never forget that."

It is to be hoped that Gleneagles 2014 will provide Torrance with more unforgettable moments.

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