Behind the Ryder Cup 1999 & 2002: The Players' Stories
With four days to go until Hazeltine we continue our countdown to the famous competition with an extract from Behind the Ryder Cup: The Players’ Stories by Peter Burns with Ed Hodge, as told exclusively by the competitors:
Colin Montgomerie: When we got to Brookline we made one major error. Mark James was brilliant as a captain, absolutely brilliant, but if he made one mistake it was that we didn’t foresee that America wanted the Ryder Cup back so badly. They had never lost three in a row before and that’s what they were facing. They did not want that to happen. It was similar to 1991.
We had a very young team, seven rookies and we’d never won with any more than five. That was the era that Faldo wasn’t playing any more, neither was Langer, Lyle, Woosnam, Seve. I was the oldest on the team. I remember when Jiménez was selected, I thought he must be the oldest – sorry, Miguel Ángel! – but then I found out he was six months younger than me! That was the big change, the end of the era of our big five.
On the scenes at the 17th when the USA won:
Justin Leonard: I was trying to two-putt, trying to get it close enough so I don’t have to do anything. If there’s a two-foot bucket around the hole, my goal is to get it in that bucket. When it got on top of the hill and started moving, I knew it was pretty good. I thought I hit it a little too hard, but three or four feet from the hole, I said, ‘Unless something goes crazy, this falls in.’ It was fun having an idea it was going in before it got to the hole.
Ben Crenshaw: You know, had that putt of Justin’s been holeable, say ten or fifteen feet, then I don’t think the reaction would have been the same. But it was just so improbable, so extraordinary, and we just completely lost our minds; we all lost them – I did. Our emotions completely got the better of us. It was all so highly improbable. But you know, there was no excuse for it, and there is no question that it is a lifelong regret.
Curtis Strange: I don’t condone what went on with the players at the seventeenth green, but I can understand the spontaneous reaction to Leonard’s putt by the players.
José María Olazábal: I have to say if it would have been just the opposite, we might have reacted the same way. We’re all human beings; we have our emotions. The Ryder Cup brings them to the highest level possible.
Tom Lehman: There ought to be a movie. Call it, The 42 Seconds to Eternity. From the
time the ball went in the hole when Justin made that putt until the time the green was clear was forty-two seconds. I wanted to see how long it took. It was forty-two seconds but it’s also lasted ever since. It seems that I’m never going to be allowed to forget it.
Colin Montgomerie: Lehman gets singled out because he was first on the green.
Jim Furyk: I’ve seen it a billion times; I haven’t watched that closely to see where Tom was. But for a million dollars, I couldn’t swear he was even on the seventeenth green.
Tiger Woods: I’ve no idea why people single Tom out about it. It wasn’t like he was the only one.
Tom Lehman: Having watched the video back I know I actually was the fifth guy on the
US team to react. And I know I never set foot on the green. Not that it matters. I think
it stemmed from Sam Torrance laying the blame with me afterwards; but Sam and I have
made peace over it, and he sent a nice note when I was made captain for 2006. So I’ve
moved on from it.
Paul McGinley: Jesper Parnevik gave me a tremendous piece of advice at the start of the week. He said that there is a huge amount of emotion that comes from the crowd and you can either fight that emotion and fight the nerves that come with it – and it can take away from your performance; or you can ride that emotion and take your game to a different level. And that’s what I tried to do all week.
Jim and I had a real good battle in that one and we came to the eighteenth all square. My approach shot wasn’t brilliant and I was standing there looking at it when Sam came up and said, ‘If you get up and down, we’re going to win the Ryder Cup.’ And I sort of smiled at him putting all this pressure on me. ‘This is exactly why I put you at nine,’ he said. ‘Do it for me.’
I didn’t have a great lie on my approach, so it was really just a question of giving myself a position from which I could putt, you know, giving myself a ten or fifteen foot putt and see what happens from there. So I hit it pretty smoothly and that’s exactly what I gave myself.
As I walked by looking at my chip, I noticed that Jim had a perfect lie in the bunker so I knew he was going to get up and down. It was only later that night when I watched on TV that I realised Jim’s bunker shot actually hit the hole. I hit a really good chip from a bad lie to about ten feet. It was a pretty straightforward putt, except my caddie, JP Fitzgerald, and I agreed that it was breaking two balls left. I hit a perfect putt. It bisected the hole. I looked up, and it was two feet from the hole, right on track and with perfect speed. It went straight into the back of the hole. It was a wonderful feeling. It was a feeling I wish everybody could experience. It was like an explosion. I don’t know how I came up with the expression, but at the time I likened it to opening a bottle of champagne. You shake the bottle, and it’s ready to explode. When you take off the cork, there’s a massive relief. I put my hands in the air and then looked at the team as they ran towards me and I could see Sergio jumping up and down and that’s why I started doing that stupid dance and jumping up and down. It was a win for everybody. That’s the nice feeling that you have – that you’ve made so many people happy.
With exhaustive research and exclusive new material garnered from interviews with players and captains from across the decades, Behind The Ryder Cup: The Players’ Stories is a book on the event like no other.
From the origin matches that preceded the first official trans-Atlantic encounter between Britain and America at Worcester in 1927, all the way through to the 40th instalment at Gleneagles in 2014, this is the complete history of the Ryder Cup – told by the men who have been there and done it.
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