Ryder Cup begins today and I can’t help but recall what it felt like for me, as both captain and as a player. As captain, the first day generates a fantastic feeling. There’s nothing that compares to it, it really is as good as it gets, and by some distance.
Everything is done and it’s time to ring the bell, that’s what everyone’s waiting for. The pairings will all have been taken care of; everyone will know who they’re playing with and against and will just be excited about getting out there to play. Don’t forget, they’ll have been waiting for two years to do this.
Both teams’ captains, Europe’s Jose Maria Olazabal (right), and Davis Love, will just be hoping that their pairings are right, because there’s little else to think about. They won’t be nervous because there’s nothing for them to be nervous about. What they do need to do, however, is to have their vice-captains watching the four matches on Friday morning because before they finish the matches, the captain needs to have the pairings in for the afternoon. He needs good information because he can’t be everywhere to see everything so he needs to rely on them.
I loved the atmosphere and buzz on the first day; it was a fantastic feeling and I revelled in it. It’s a fantastic feeling to watch your players out there playing for their team. It’s an individual thing if you’ve any trouble sleeping but I personally didn’t, and I actually see that as one of the advantages of being on the away team – because of the jet lag you get very tired early on at night and are awake early in the morning, so you’ll generally sleep well.
I remember saying to each player on the singles day, ‘listen, this will be the most important day of your golfing life and you’ll remember it until the day you die, go and enjoy it – have no regrets’. There are perhaps things you’d say to suit a certain character, but that’s personal.
As a player on the first day of the Ryder Cup it’s either fantastic or hellish, depending on whether you’re playing or not. For those that aren’t playing it’s really tough to be out there watching – they’re there to play, they want to play but they can’t. You can get quite nervous if you’re watching, too – you’re not in control and you see a shot and react to it but there’s nothing you can do but watch.
Every one of the 24 involved will be both excited and nervous; there’s nothing they can do about that so it’s how you control it and use them because you can turn nerves into adrenaline. Those that are playing are in their element, doing exactly what they want to do. If you’re a rookie it can be intimidating, because you don’t really know what it’s going to be like until you get on the first tee, so the first day can be harder. But that said, the worst player between these two teams is still one of the best in the world – these are the best there are, so they should be able to handle it.
Those involved should do whatever it is they do for every other tournament they play in; that’s the key to golf, to do the same things and be in your comfort zone. As captain, I didn’t discourage my team from doing anything. You have to remember they’re the world’s best so if they want to have a drink they should do so, if they want to go out they should do so. You just say, ‘do whatever you want to do, just be ready for me in the morning’. You just get on with your own game and concentrate on beating your opponents on the golf course.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator.