Peter Hanson: "I was nearly in tears…"October, 2011
The Swedish star reflects on his Ryder Cup experience at Celtic Manor in 2010
Did you speak to any fellow Swedes or other Tour players to try and get a taste of what a Ryder Cup is like?
I did quite a bit of research with my good friend Henrik Stenson, who played on the last two teams and I spoke quite a bit with Joakim Haeggman, who played in 1993. I had never been to a Ryder Cup before so I asked about what the atmosphere would be like, how they felt on the 1st tee and how best to prepare – would it be good to play the week before or not, things like that.
You had to pull out the week before the matches began with a chest infection. Were you fully fit going into Celtic Manor?
I wasn’t brilliant the week before and I spoke to the European Tour doctor and the Ryder Cup doctor and it was a bit of a concern especially having not been able to fine tune my game. I felt a bit unprepared in the first practice round on the Tuesday but soon started to hit it really good, so I was playing well going into the matches themselves.
How did your partnership with Spanish star Miguel Angel Jimenez come about?
We both knew we had a good chance of playing together. He was the lone Spaniard and I was the lone Swede and we have played so much together on tour over the years. It was great, he’s obviously a fantastic player and character so it was great fun.
The format change came as a big surprise to everyone and to us on the outside seemed to happen very quickly. Did you get the feeling that a plan was in place from the very start for such an eventuality?
I don’t think anything was planned. I spoke to (European Tour chief referee) John Paramor and asked him how they came up with something so quick. He said he and (Tournament Director) David Garland sat down and tried to work out how to get it finished by the Sunday night and it worked out fantastically well for us. The Americans were happy with it and both captains had 15 to 20 minutes to talk it over with their team and get back to the officials.
When did you find out the foursomes pairings for what should have been the Friday afternoon?
Not until late on the Thursday night in the team room but, in the last practice round on the Thursday we played together and it was foursomes, so we had a good idea that would happen.
Your Ryder Cup debut was against Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker – how did that feel?
The 1st tee really was unbelievable. The build up was quite funny actually. When we found out we were playing together and how the course was set up with four of the five par 3s on the odd holes, we decided that I would take them as I was hitting my irons well. As I said it, I then realised I would also have to hit the opening tee shot. My knees were pretty weak and I was nearly in tears but it was fantastic to hit that shot, get all that adrenaline going and feel the crowd get behind you.
What was it like playing Tiger?
Everyone was saying he was out of form but he has been so good individually for so many years.
I think this Ryder Cup helped him as he could hide within the middle of the team and he played well. I was really impressed by the way he and Stricker played, we were OK but they were about five under, which is great in foursomes.
How close is he to his best?
If he can perform like he did in the singles then not very far. For me it helped being part of a team more than ever.
My knees were pretty weak and I was nearly in tears but it was fantastic to hit that shot, get all that adrenaline going and feel the crowd get behind you. And how good was Mickelson in the singles?
I played with Phil a few weeks earlier at the Bridgestone and beat him easily but this was very different. He had lost the day before to record the most amount of defeats so I knew he’d come out playing. He was three under after four and I gave away two holes and you can’t do that against him. I got it back to two but he then put his foot down with a couple of birdies to close out the match.
You were on the end of one of the most vocal celebrations in Ryder Cup history when Jeff Overton holed his approach to the 8th, what was that like?
Miguel and I didn’t see it. I had just hit an eight iron to maybe about six feet and we were halfway to the green and looking forward. I still haven’t seen it on TV and everyone keeps talking about it. When he did it we told ourselves to carry on and just have a practice putt and go to the next hole. It was a big celebration but we were up in all six matches at that point.
Was your up and down, from the hazard, for a crucial half at the 15th the best of your life?
Definitely, that was a key moment. They had just got it back to even and they both knocked it on the par 4. I knew Miguel didn’t have the length to get up and I just turned it over down the slope into the edge of the hazard and managed to make a three. At the end of the match Sergio came up and said ‘even Seve would have been pleased with that’ so that was amazing to hear.
How moving was it to have Seve speak to the team earlier in the week and then to have Jose Maria Olazabal join the backroom team?
That was a very touching moment, I was surprised that Seve’s voice was so clear and full of energy. It was so obvious that there was so much fire inside him and that he still wants to play and win the Ryder Cup, it really helped the team.
And then to have Seve’s great friend, Jose Maria, join us was incredible. We had so much experience in the assistants and Colin was always very keen to point out how important they were and Jose Maria added further to that. Obviously Sergio would rather have played but he was so encouraging.
And of the players who would you say was the team leader?
Definitely Lee Westwood. He played such a big role especially with all the rookies in the team.
He played with Martin Kaymer in the first match out on Friday and was brilliant.
It was probably a bit difficult for Martin as he is in the world’s top 10 and is a Major champion but, despite all that, it was still his debut.
I know he wasn’t that happy with his game in the singles but it didn’t take him too long to win again did it (talking of Kaymer’s victory the following week in the Dunhill Links in St Andrews)?
And what of Monty’s supposed outburst, was that as big as everyone made out?
When was this, afterwards or before?
After the second session?
I don’t even remember that so it couldn’t have been that big (laughing). We talked every day as a team and I can’t remember anything like that.
Did you see another side to Monty?
Leading up to the matches he was very relaxed and talked to a lot of players. From my own point of view I was pretty close to qualifying for the 2008 Cup when Faldo was captain and I didn’t receive one single phone call in the five or six months leading up to it.
If you are one of the top 15 players you try everything you can to make the team and it is great to have some feedback from the captain. I felt that I had so much support from Colin, we had lunches together and I was able to tell him how committed I was to making the team and he was a great support.