We always like to ascribe a psychological advantage from the opening ceremony – taking heart from the captain that made the worst speech or forgot a player’s name. Does any of that actually matter?
Mark: One American captain at The Belfry, either Lee Trevino or Ray Floyd, introduced his side as the ‘12 greatest golfers in the world’ or something like that. Which was fairly idiotic given who was in our team and that Greg Norman was watching somewhere. The opening ceremony is a load of flannel, an eye for detail and a solid game plan behind closed doors will help get the job done.
Alex: The Ryder Cup has never been won or lost in an opening ceremony speech (other cliches are available) but if a captain does anything to make himself look a bit foolish, that must resonate with both teams. Are you going to go out and be willing to die for a man who can’t even get your name right?
Steve: I don’t think so. It was very amusing when Corey Pavin forgot to introduce Stewart Cink at Celtic Manor but it didn’t have any bearing on the golf that was played. It’s all part of the fun and games of the build up but if a slightly dodgy captain’s speech is all it requires to stop an elite golfer from performing to his best then they’ve got bigger issues.
James: I think there are lots of places where advantages can be gained. Having all the players in the right frame of mind is key so both captains have to be very careful not to make silly mistakes or show any signs that the pressure is getting to them. I think the general demeanour of the captain throughout the whole event is very important. You want them to be calm, confident and calculated in everything they do.
Who would you prefer to have on your team: Sergio Garcia or Phil Mickelson?
Steve: There’s been plenty of debate about whether Sergio should be in the side but, now he’s here, I’d opt for the Spaniard over Mickelson. The two, of course, shared an epic singles half at Hazeltine and Phil’s the architect of the famed ‘task force’. But Sergio has spent most of his career winning Ryder Cups. Phil’s overall record is still a losing one in every respect.
Mark: If you had asked me this question 10 years ago, which would be unlikely as I didn’t know any of you, I would have gone for Sergio. Now I’d go for Mickelson. For all the talk of players idolising Tiger this is his team and he’s been brilliant in the last three matches. He might have a losing record but since Celtic Manor he’s contributed 7.5 points from 11 outings. I’d imagine they’re both amazing team-mates but, given the choice, it’s Mickelson.
James: Sergio all day. He’s a player that has risen to the occasion time after time at the Ryder Cup and is a good partner in both fourballs and foursomes. Mickelson is the weak link in the USA team this year I feel.
Alex: Good grief. It’s like Sophie’s choice. I have to stick with Sergio. If things aren’t going his way, I’d still back him 100% to pull something out of the bag. I don’t really get that feeling with Phil.