OUR MAN AT CELTIC MANOR
WINNING the Ryder Cup as captain at the Belfry in 2002 was quite simply the best feeling I have ever experienced on a golf course. Nothing comes close.
I didn’t think anything could top sinking the winning putt to win it as a player in 1985, but taking the trophy back from the Americans as skipper was even better.
Just being a part of the Ryder Cup is a privilege in itself. It’s an extra special competition, the one tournament every player wants to be a part of.
Now, for me, it’s in the blood, and I simply can’t wait for the European team’s revenge mission at Celtic Manor, which starts tomorrow.
For the captains and the players, the week leading up to the Ryder Cup is actually pretty relaxed. The build-up is over, it’s time to let the golf do the talking.
I played a round with Colin Montgomerie last week, and he’s relaxed, confident and in a good place right now, literally counting down the minutes until the first tee-off.
On Monday night, Monty will have sat his team down for the now traditional motivational video – and that will certainly have settled any nerves that the players may have harboured.
As it sounds, this is basically a video showing the best moments of each of the 12 players’ careers in two or three minute segments. This simply makes the player and his peers feel good about playing, and is always good for team morale.
As you read this, I’ll be waking up from a dinner with Monty and the team before final preparation gets underway today. It’s always great to be around the team, but I certainly won’t be going around dishing out advice if it’s not wanted.
Obviously, if asked, I will help in any way I can, but you have to let a player come to you if he wants any advice, otherwise it can do more harm than good.
A captain’s job is done in the first two days. He only has one stab at choosing his pairings and he has to get it right, they have to gel together. Singles on the final day is luck really, who plays who and in what order.
Monty will have had potential pairings going around in his head for months, and I’m sure that still would have been the case when the players took to the Celtic Manor fairways for practice this week. It’s the perfect time for him to test out some of his theories.
While the Molinari brothers are an obvious partnership, Monty doesn’t have too many pairings that pick themselves. He does, however, have a number of players at his disposal such as Martin Kaymer, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and even rookies Ross Fisher and Rory McIlroy, who are floaters – they can pretty much go with anyone.
Sometimes it can just come to you, a moment of inspiration. I remember partnering Westwood and Sergio Garcia together in 2002. They had never practiced together or hit a shot together, yet they won three-and-a-half out of four points and that proved to be a major boost for the team.
Perhaps the pairing I would like to see is Westwood and McIlroy. A lot are linking McIlroy with his fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, but I just think Westwood and McIlroy would be pretty formidable together and give the Americans something to think about.
Whatever he decides, you can rest assured that Monty will not even be thinking about the Americans. In 2002, I really couldn’t have cared any less about what they were doing or whether they were keeping an eye on us. You can’t pre-empt their selection, you’ve just got to pick your best eight players on the day.
The Europeans are clear favourites to reclaim the trophy in the eyes of the bookies, but, to be honest, I really can’t see why.
Yes, the fact we have a strong team, home advantage, the crowd, and maybe even the good old British weather, may tip the balance in our favour, but it is not going to be easy.
You have to remember the Americans have numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5 in the world in their team – you just can’t discount them.
I also don’t buy the myth that the Americans are too individual and don’t gel as a team. They did pretty well at Valhalla two years ago, and that won’t be a feature of this weekend, I’m sure.
SAM’S RYDER CUP CV
SAM TORRANCE played for Europe in the Ryder Cup eight times. On his third appearance, in 1985, he sank the winning putt which deprived the Americans of the trophy for the first time in 28 years.
Back at the Belfry 17 years later, Sam captained the team to the 2002 triumph, making him only the second player, after Seve Ballesteros in 1997, to sink the winning putt and captain a winning team at separate Ryder Cups.
Friday 1 October: 7.45am – Fourballs / Foursomes; 1.15pm – Fourballs / Foursomes (Sky Sports 1 from 7am, BBC2 8.30pm - 10pm)
Saturday 2 October: 7.45am – Fourballs / Foursomes; 1.15pm – Fourballs / Foursomes (Sky Sports 1 from 7am, BBC2 8.30pm -10.30pm)
Sunday 3 October: 11.30am – Singles. 5.30pm –
Closing ceremony (Sky Sports 1 from 10am, BBC2 7.30pm - 9.30pm)