How hard a process is it to get in the team in the first place?
I felt like I played really well all year and I only just got in the team. You think about it a lot of the time but you have to blank it out and try and play one week at a time. You want to be flying onto the team playing well rather than scraping into it and I had three top 10s going into it. That was some of my best golf ever, the Ryder Cup was one of my big goals for the year.
I have spoken to quite a few people who would not want to play in the Ryder Cup. They get close and then they think, ‘I’ll have a couple of weeks off now’.
I loved every minute of it. There is nothing like it, it’s the ultimate arena. I enjoyed it more than anything else than anything I have ever played in by a mile.
How does it compare to the other big weeks of the year?
The Masters is the best tournament to play in but there is nothing like the Ryder Cup, nothing. It was easier that I was 38 and playing really well so it didn’t feel like too big an occasion but your nerves are generally better when you are younger. It was perfect timing for me, Matteo Manassero was playing in The Masters when he was 16. I was playing off seven.
I wasn’t too nervous, I had been playing so well and had won in Czech a few weeks before and was then fourth in Wales, so I couldn’t have been playing any better and I was probably playing as well as anyone on the team.
Were you always going to partner Lee Westwood?
I had options of who I might play with and Paul McGinley asked who I wanted to play with and Westwood was one of them. He’s so calm, he doesn’t get flustered by anything and I needed someone like that. And he’s good fun.
I remember in the first practice and I stood on the 1st tee and there were about 15,000 there. I was playing with Lee Westwood and Thomas Bjorn and they both striped it down the middle. I was just about to hit and Billy Foster says under his breath, ‘Hey, numbnuts, don’t f*ck it up, they’re all watching!’ I striped it down the middle and I never looked back. There is so much piss-taking going on.
And your debut came playing foursomes?
Starting out in a foursomes isn’t ideal. I hardly slept the night before, I hardly slept all week but you have so much adrenaline. I was annoyed that I was dropped for the first morning as I was playing so well and I really wanted to get going.
We went out top in the afternoon against Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar and Lee said on the 1st tee ‘fairways and greens, level generally wins this and people can shoot hundreds’ – we shot 5 under and won on the last. They didn’t give us anything until the 18th when Kuchar duffed a chip.
We lost the Saturday morning match 4&3 which was really annoying. I have never seen anyone hole as many putts as Furyk did that day, he drained every single putt. He was holing 40-footers for par. If there had been more pressure on Hunter Mahan he would have struggled, he looked like he didn’t want to be on his own particularly but Furyk was tremendous.
I went into the Ryder Cup not wanting to lose a game, I just wanted to smash them to pieces, so I was annoyed when we lost to Furyk. I never thought what did happen would have done, to hit the winning shot, but I wanted to win every game.
When did it dawn on you that you might be the one to secure the winning point?
It was obvious I could win the match. I was pretty nervous, you have flutters of not wanting to mess this up or fatting it, but then you are into where you want to hit it. Luckily everything was in my favour, a bad shot would be left and middle of the green, wind was off the right and the yardage was so perfect for a pitching wedge.
That shot has given me complete contentment. It is just for your own pride, whatever happens in your career you have that landmark to pin it on. If nothing else happened ever again you will always be known for hitting the winning shot in a Ryder Cup.
More from the Ryder Cup
Jamie Donaldson was speaking to NCG as an ambassador for Hilton Hotels, the official hotel of the European Tour.