Behind the Ryder Cup 2012 & 2014: The Players’ Stories
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:
Davis Love III: The difference between winning a Major and winning the Ryder Cup? To capture the feeling of the last nine holes or the last few holes of a Major – that nervousness. Friday morning, the first tee shot of the Ryder Cup is like your last shot into the last hole of a Major championship. You’re nervous already, and I think it’s that little bit of a difference of you’re trying to win a Major championship, you don’t have a fear of losing it. In the Ryder Cup, there’s always that in the back of your mind: ‘what if we lose this match, what if we lose this Ryder Cup?’ That kind of pressure, you don’t really feel in a Major.
Nicolas Colsaerts: When you stand on the first tee as a rookie your hands are shaking, your knees are shaking and you feel like you’re only going to be able to hit the ball fifty yards – at best. It’s like the hundred metres final at the Olympics. The stress and the intensity is there and people say you need to embrace it, but let me tell you, it’s pretty difficult. The ball was just a little white blurry spot. I remember telling myself, ‘You wanted to be here. Time to show why. There’s no backing out now.’ I basically closed my eyes and gave muscle-memory a chance to kick in. All of us dream to play in a Ryder Cup because it has such a different meaning and such a different vibe to the kind of golf tournaments that we usually play in.
Webb Simpson: You don’t realise how bad you want to win until you’re on the team. We’re on a tour that has $350 million in prize money every year and you’d think you’d be more excited about that, than an event where you don’t get paid anything, but it’s not about that it’s about your teammates and your country and you want to win for them so, so bad.
José María Olazábal: The rollercoaster of emotions that I had to go through that week was unbelievable. You all know how much the Ryder Cup has meant to me in my career, and on top of that I had Seve’s memory present all week. It was a huge relief in a way, and a huge satisfaction. That’s why when Martin made that putt I looked up in the skies and gave a thought to Seve. That was it. I didn’t completely express my emotions at that moment, because I was trying to hold on.
Davis Love III: We were all kind of stunned. We suddenly knew what the ’99 Ryder Cup must have felt like for Europe. It was a little bit shocking. We were playing so well, everybody on our team was playing so well, we just figured it didn’t matter how we sent them out there. But we put who we thought was our hot players up front and we put who we thought was our steady players in the back that would get us points. We all thought it would come down to Jason Dufner, and he played very, very well [beating Peter Hanson two-up]. We just got a couple of matches flipped there in the middle that cost us. But that’s golf. In the end we didn’t play well enough. We could have laid them out there in about any order and played like that. It wouldn’t have really mattered. The guys had a great week, had a lot of fun, and they played well. They played a lot of good golf, and so did the other side. It was a tough defeat to take but ultimately the team understood, that’s just golf sometimes.
José María Olazábal: Seve was never beaten. You learn from what you see, and I did that from the way Seve played and the way he acted on the golf course. He broke down barriers. He took the concept of golf to a new audience and he opened a lot of doors for European players when he went to the States and won the Masters that first time. We started to believe, as young players, that we could follow in his footsteps. The way he played golf had not been seen before. In his prime, he played from places you weren’t supposed to play from, yet ended up making a birdie or saving par with some huge shot. Seve taught me one thing above all else. Never give in, never quit, anything is possible in this game.
I remember hugging Ian Poulter and just being unable to speak for four minutes or so. It was just so emotional the whole thing. One of the best moments of my life, if not the best.
Graeme McDowell: Paul McGinley left no stone unturned. No disrespect to any other captain, but he was the best I’ve played under and I’m sure he is the most meticulous ever. To me, he proved once and for all that the emphasis should be on leadership qualities, not on golfing credentials. Nothing was left to chance, he thought of everything. Even the fish he had swimming around in the team room were yellow and blue.
Tom Watson: I can tell you that all the players that I talked to, every one of them without a doubt had one thing to say about the Ryder Cup: they wanted a chance to make amends for what happened at Medinah. The Europeans played great in the last round in 2012, and that was a hard, hard loss for the American players, and it stuck with a lot of them. Keegan Bradley was my first captain’s pick and I learned from speaking to him that he still had a bag of clothes at home that had sat unopened since 2012. He was the epitome of somebody who wanted to get on the team to make amends for Medinah. There are a lot of great pluses about Keegan, but the most important thing he brought to the team was his unbridled passion to play in the Ryder Cup.
Ian Poulter: There’s lots to digest about what Paul did very, very well. Tom Watson is way more accomplished as a player than Paul McGinley, so he knew he couldn’t go up against his personal playing record. But what he could do was try and out-think him. By doing his homework, by being respectful, by being unbelievably clever in the way that he went around getting all of his statistics to make sure he had the right players on the course at the right time – he did all of that.
Pádraig Harrington: For me, personally, I thought the US lost a tremendous opportunity with Phil Mickelson; every player on that team looks up to, admires and would follow Phil Mickelson, and the biggest thing Tom Watson could have done was to recognise Phil as his ace and to use his influence in the team room. If he had let Phil loose in the team room, you wouldn’t have been able to contain those guys, they would have played like Keegan Bradley in Medinah. But the captain didn’t do that. If he had let Phil have the floor in the team room they could have been devastating.
Jamie Donaldson: I hit a really good tee shot down fifteen and I had 146 yards to the hole which is a perfect wedge for me. Sometimes you can hit a really good tee shot and not have a good yardage and you’ve got to make something up. But it was a perfect number for a wedge with the wind being slightly down off the right and I just started it perfectly on the right edge of the green. All I had to do was get it on line and it was going to be good. To that extent, obviously you don’t know. I just had to get it on line and make good contact and I did that, but for it to finish a foot from the hole was quite a bonus. It was the shot of my life. What a way to finish. It was an incredible week, just a total one-off. There is nothing else like it in golf. It was just amazing to be a part of it.
José María Olazábal: If you have to write a movie script, I would win it like we did at Medinah. But for your heart, for a lot of people’s hearts, I’d rather do it like we did at Gleneagles.
Sam Torrance: When Alex Ferguson had come to speak to the players during the week, he told a story about the geese that fly 5,000 miles in two formations, the second lot in the slipstream of the first. One gets tired, two come down and look after him until he recovers, then they all catch up. On the Sunday night, we were on the first tee of the King’s, doing the team photos, we looked up and two flocks of geese went past. It was such a moment.
Stephen Gallacher: Paul commissioned a painting to be done, with the geese and Fergie. We’ve all got that. It was Fergie’s way of talking about teamwork, if one is down you all rally round. It was a great speech. There is a wonderful picture of us all laughing at the geese flying over – right at the last moment the geese went right over the tops of our heads. It was just something really special.
Paul McGinley: Sir Alex Ferguson came back into the team room on Sunday night and said it had felt like he was back in the boiler room at Man United and said to the players: ‘Thank you for the pleasure.’ It was great that he said something like that, that he felt that connection. All of the players were up there treating him as a friend, having a drink with him, pulling his leg. Alex also told us to be merry, have fun, but to be able to remember it. And then we went into the American team room, played them at table tennis and we got our arses kicked.
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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