Coltart on Brookline: "A cameraman was standing on my ball"September 21, 2016 Golf News
Andrew Coltart reflects on an unforgettable Ryder Cup debut at Brookline and a head-to-head with Tiger Woods
Brookline 1999, according to veteran broadcaster Alistair Cooke, marked ‘the arrival of the golf hooligan’. While 1991 and the ‘War on the Shore’ at Kiawah was one thing, this something else. Jeff Maggert, yes that Jeff Maggert, said ‘let’s face it, we’ve got the world’s 12 best players.”
Colin Montgomerie, ranked significantly higher than Maggert at No 3, got more abuse than most. The supposed spirit of the Ryder Cup had gone; things had got silly, the players, fans and even the marshals went over the top and then everything spilled over, literally, on the 17th green when Justin Leonard rolled in a 40-footer.
It was the oddest of weeks and Andrew Coltart’s experience was odder than most. He got a captain’s pick from Mark James and then didn’t get a game until the Sunday singles where he faced none other than Tiger Woods.
At the start of the week what did you anticipate happening at Brookline?
I didn’t anticipate how well everyone on the team would come together and work as one. Europe was and is particularly good at behaving in that matter. Only you and your team-mates know what you are going through that week and it really is a band of brothers. Every other week you are trying to beat each other over the head with your clubs and now all these golfing greats will do anything for you so your experience and your golf is as good as it could possibly be. That is an incredibly enriching experience. I remember Darren Clarke saying that everyone is nervous so just to try and enjoy it as much as possible.
Would it have been easier to make your debut on home soil?
Not at all, I love being the underdog and I don’t like a massive weight of expectation on my shoulders so I much preferred playing in the States.
Was there a charm offensive to try and get the home fans on your side a bit?
We did everything, the Americans had just asked for remuneration for playing in the matches and they were being a bit ridiculous about it given they were multi-millionaires. We felt like we would do anything to get the blue badge on our chest. We would sign autographs and have photos with the fans, we would give away gloves and tried to get the American fans on our side and take advantage of the mistakes they were making in the press.
You spent the first two days watching rather than playing. Was that always the plan?
I was never led on in any way, my understanding was and still is that if you’re part of a team, if that means sitting on your arse, that’s what you do. If you’re not picked what you don’t do is start undermining your own team’s performance by whinging in the background or backstabbing anybody. You suck it up and deal with it.
You want to play and experience it but our team had seven rookies and had a four-point lead going into the singles in America so whatever Mark James was doing then it was working.
With the benefit of hindsight the singles order looked strange with three rookies, none of whom had played a match, in the third, fourth and fifth matches out?
We all saw several lists of singles orders so everyone had a chance to pipe up. Maybe, and it’s changed now, players were feeding their ego and playing five games. There should be some responsibility with some of the more experienced players in knowing how much five matches takes out of you and sitting out a session. Nowadays you just have one or two players doing that.
When I saw that I was playing Tiger I remember Sam saying that’s brilliant, it was a win-win as everyone expected me to get humped.
What was it actually like to be inside the ropes on that Sunday?
When you were inside the ropes you didn’t hear the sniping, the atmosphere was just incredible and it was phenomenally intense. You were centre stage and exactly where you wanted to be. I hated the result but the whole experience was tremendous.
As fans we see leaderboards every two minutes, how aware were you that things were going wrong?
Walking off 13 I had just missed a three-foot putt to go two down and I was aware that the momentum had changed – Jean Van de Velde had already finished in the match ahead of me and Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood had been beaten in the top two matches.
Steve Williams has said that Tiger came over on the 1st tee and said “I know you haven’t played. If it helps, this first hole doglegs to the left.” Is that true?
If it is I don’t recall it. If he did say anything I was too busy trying to think of where to hit it. Nice story but I never heard it. We halved it in bogey fives so Tiger didn’t play it too well!
There are a lot of stories told of what went on that day, some true, some rubbish. Was there anything untoward in your match?
I pulled it left over the hill at the 9th. The crowd couldn’t go down the left, they could go halfway down the right and then cross over, so there were marshals on the hill and they were telling us the ball had gone careering on into the trees 40 yards ahead.
I know how far I don’t hit it but you are following these people’s instructions who have volunteered to be neutral. And when the five minutes was up it just so happened that an American cameraman was standing on it or happened to stand on it. It was only a couple of yards off the fairway. So I had to go back to the tee.
How much did that affect you?
I had just lost the previous two holes, I three-putted 7 and Tiger chipped in from the thick rough at the next. And he had creamed his drive 300 yards down the middle and had a 6-iron left in and I would be laying up.
If it was anything else it would have really niggled to say the least but because it was the Ryder Cup and it was so important I didn’t let it bother me. I just thought I’ve got a bloody difficult hole coming up and I need to get my drive away. It didn’t affect me that much at all.
What did you make of the American shirts?
It’s not the way we would do it that’s for sure! The irony is they have chosen those shirts way in advance. You want to stand on that tee and look smart and sharp and feel good based on what you are wearing. They were inspired but it sure as hell wasn’t because of the shirts they were wearing.
I take it you didn’t all share a beer afterwards?
I certainly didn’t head towards the American team room. In truth we were still a little bit shocked and surprised by what had happened on the 17th, not the putt but the fact they had all gone nuts and the match was still alive. But it was a sign of the pressures that the players were under, and that took over and there was a complete disregard for what was actually happening.
Who did you come away from Brookline a bigger fan of than at the start of the week?
Payne Stewart was incredibly aware of what was going on and I think Mark O’Meara was but he has always been a bit of a gent. At that stage we only had a few TV channels that followed golf and the Americans had hundreds there and for two days they were getting slaughtered by those channels so there was so much pressure on their players.
They did things that they wouldn’t do in other situations but the Ryder Cup isn’t like any other situation.
Give us some possible pairings for this year..
Off the top of my head I would say Rose and Stenson is a must, Westwood and Willett, Garcia and Cabrera Bello or McIlroy and Cabrera Bello as they are quite pally.
Rory played with Andy Sullivan in the Dubai World Championship and was very impressed with Andy so that might also be a good partnership.
Kaymer has said he would like to play with Pieters or maybe Garcia and Pieters. You would imagine Westwood will be used with another rookie so maybe he’ll get a game with Wood or Fitzpatrick.
And a good bet for the rookie top scorer?
I watched Danny Willett in Italy and he was very much in control. I might have said Pieters a few weeks ago but Willett looked very good so I’ll go with him.
Andrew runs Tour Pro Experience Golf Schools at Archerfield Links, a brilliant experience which caters for golfers of all standards