With two 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:
Paul Azinger: I think it’s interesting to analyse the psychological approach that both teams take to the Ryder Cup. For us it’s in our mind. We want to win and we think about it. But for the European players it’s like it’s in their blood. It’s in their hearts and it’s different, there’s a different emotion – and that’s one of the great challenges for us: can the mind beat the heart. That was the challenge that I had to overcome.
My philosophy was to take a militaristic approach, this Navy SEALs concept of taking a large group and breaking it into small groups and the press ended up calling them ‘pods’. And so we had three four-man pods, and I told these guys in their little four-man groups that they should be sold-out for each other, that I would never take them out of their four-man group unless there was injury or an illness, that there was no short-cut to success, that they couldn’t hope for it and they couldn’t wish for it, it was all about preparation.
And they did it, they bonded in their group. I didn’t just put them together based on their like games; I put them together on their like personalities. I felt that like personalities in a pressure situation would bond better. So that’s how I did it – that was hard for me, but I was convinced it was the right thing to do. I let three guys pick the fourth guy to fill out their pod. And I let the players decide who would play alternate shot and best-ball. These guys were invested; they had full-blown ownership of what they were doing.
With the US needing just half a point for victory in the singles, Jiménez and Furyk arrived on the seventeenth with the Spaniard one-down. Jiménez was faced with a twenty-foot putt that would take the match to the eighteenth. He stroked it evenly but as the ball slid past the hole, Jiménez knew it was all over and conceded the match.
Jim Furyk: The dream is to knock in a twenty-footer and fist pump with the crowd going bananas; mine was a two-foot concession. But I’ll take it.
Paul Azinger: It was at the end of Furyk’s match that it just hit me. This was a team and we became a family. I didn’t cry, but I get a lump in my throat thinking back to it all.
Colin Montgomerie: I wish I could say we turned things around because of my team talks or whatever, but it wasn’t that. The reason we won was that we all pulled together; we hadn’t been playing for each other the way I had anticipated we would – I didn’t feel that Westwood was holing putts for Kaymer, who wasn’t holing putts for Donald, who wasn’t holing them for Poulter . . . it wasn’t quite knitting together – and that was what was said. And I allowed them to air their views as well – it was very important that we were working together, that I wasn’t some kind of dictator, it was very much a democracy within our locker room; I wanted that team unity back again which I didn’t feel was happening that first day or two.
We were living in a financially difficult time and I had been told by my bosses that a home win was very, very important economically for European golf. Sponsorship for the European Tour was hanging in the balance and it was crucial to its survival that we brought the cup home. So I said, ‘Come on lads, this is for you but it’s for others as well – it’s for the whole European Tour. If we don’t do this, it will affect the whole Tour for, at the very least, the next two years, unless we can sort this out.’ I needed them to know that it was important for them to perform for themselves but also for the rest of the European Tour and all those concerned with that.
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.
Get your copy here!