Roe’s voice is heard above Ryder Cup noise

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, holds up the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the PGA Championship. He leads Europe's challenge at the Ryder Cup.
Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, holds up the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the PGA Championship. He leads Europe's challenge at the Ryder Cup.
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Yorkshire’s links with the Ryder Cup have invariably been of the back-stage variety, rather than of the headline-grabbing, star attraction kind.

Three of the county’s courses – Moortown, Ganton and Lindrick – have staged the famous event, while one of the most successful caddies in the competition’s history, Billy Foster, is from Bingley.

Rotherham’s no-nonsense coach Pete Cowen has guided many a European to the pinnacle of team golf, and next week will be at Gleneagles tutoring Henrik Stenson and Graeme McDowell.

His protege, Mike Walker, is one of the vogue coaches of the moment, having recently started work with Lee Westwood, the man whose bag Foster will carry at his 12th Ryder Cup.

If Yorkshire doesn’t do players in the Ryder Cup, then at least the White Rose has vested interests in the week when golf becomes the biggest story in world sport.

And one of those who will help relay that story next week; from the tension on the first tee to the drama of the 18th, is a Yorkshireman.

If Mark Roe was a steady professional in his 21 years with a club in his hand, then the 51-year-old from Sheffield is rapidly becoming one of the best exponents with a microphone at his lips.

Roe has been commentating on golf for Sky Sports for seven years – “I can’t believe it’s that long,” he says – but in the last year he has become one of their leading voices. Ewan Murray will always by the Peter Alliss of the Sky Sports commentary box, but Roe has emerged as his chief wingman this summer, calling one of the great stretches of success for Rory McIlroy, and the latest chapter in the demise of Tiger Woods.

“I have been blessed ever since I retired from playing to be doing this job,” says Roe.

“What could be better than sitting watching golf and talking about it. If I wasn’t doing it here, I’d probably be doing it at home, with a beer in my hand instead of the mic.

“I might divide opinions with some of my comments, but that’s part of the job.”

So what are those opinions, as the world of golf throws its doors open to sports fans of all persuasions?

“I think they do pick too early,” says Roe of the United States’ decision to make their wild card selections midway through the four-week FedEx Cup play-offs.

Abiding by that principle has deprived US captain Tom Watson of Billy Horschel, the form man of Amercian golf who has just won the last two tournaments and scooped nearly $15m in prize money.

“In terms of arrangements and planning you can’t leave it until the last two weeks, but what Billy Horschel and Chris Kirk (FedEx Cup runner-up) have done is given the US Ryder Committee enough ammunition to adjust it in the future.

“Tom picked Webb Simpson who is a great player and a major champion let’s not forget, but his best form came right at the start of the 2013-14 season and he hasn’t played great since.

“Keegan Bradley hasn’t been in great form all year, but he showed his best when he needed to get the pick, and you also have to factor in his partnership with Phil Mickelson.”

So what of team Europe, winners of five of the six matches this century, and favourites to win it again in Scotland?

“Ian Poulter, by his own admission has not had a great year, but he raises his game for the Ryder Cup,” continues Roe.

“Colin Montgomerie was the same. Irrelevant of form, the Ryder Cup ignites something in him. I’ll never forget the interview Poulter did one year when he turned to the camera and said ‘I’ll deliver a point’.

“When I think about who I’d want in a team I always ask myself who would I want standing over the six-footer to win it? And Poulter is that man.”

Poulter was the obvious wild card pick by captain Paul McGinley, given his tenacity when he pulls on the European jersey, but the selection of Lee Westwood was not so widely applauded. Roe has worked with Westwood in the past, in his other guise as a professional coach.

The two combined forces for 18 months, with Roe making the adjustments to Westwood’s perennially-troubled short game that saw the Worksop player move from the mid-50s in the world into the top 10.

Any concerns he or European fans have over Westwood’s ability to deliver in what will be his ninth straight Ryder Cup, were allayed for Roe over a casual conversation with a fellow Yorkshireman.

“I bumped into Billy Foster at Celtic Manor on Thursday and he talked about how good Westy was looking after getting back in the gym,” says Roe.

“I was over the moon to hear that because that could just be that little extra ingredient Westwood needs. The last time he was dedicated in the gym we saw the effects on the golf course, not just phycially, but also mentally; he had a lot more confidence in himself. The 63 he shot at Firestone recently shows me it’s all still there.”

As the senior figure, the role of team leader would ordinarily be one bequeathed to Westwood, but Europe’s talisman is the world’s No 1 golfer, Rory McIlroy.

Already with two major wins and a world golf championship triumph, McIlroy nearly denied Horschel his massive pay day.

Are there any fears that he may arrive at Gleneagles burnt out?

“I don’t think fatigue will affect Rory; adrenalin will carry him through,” adds Roe. “Even when he’s only at 90 per cent, he’s still the best golfer on the planet.

“He’s managed to focus his mind on the golf course, irrespective of what’s going on with relationships and with his management company”

So will McIlroy steer Europe to another victory?

“I really believe it’s the toss a coin,” is Roe’s answer.

“Paul McGinley has some interesting decisions to make, particularly over the rookies, and then he’s also got some obvious partnerships. But he’s up against a wily old adversary in Tom Watson.”

If there is a disappointment for Roe as Ryder Cup week approaches, it is that none of the players in his ever-expanding stable of pupils will be representing Europe.

Francesco Molinari and Ross Fisher – who have three caps between them from their time with Roe – got close but not close enough.

“It would have been nice for my players to be here, but overall, the coaching aspect of my life satisfies the competitive edge,” he adds.

“It’s a lovely feeling to be able to improve people. Coupled with the commentating, I’m blessed.”

Sky Sports will ‘Bring The Noise’ from The 2014 Ryder Cup exclusively live on TV, mobile, online and via NOW TV including the Week Pass.