Ryder Cup Reflections
September 22, 2010
Captains and players remember their Ryder Cup experiences
PRESSUREHale Irwin (Golf Digest, June 2003) On the intensity at the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah's Ocean Course:PRESSURE"You don't win three U.S. Opens without having some ability to handle pressure. But the 1991 Ryder Cup was another animal. I wasn't playing particularly well, and I'm playing Bernhard Langer, one of the toughest players of all time. As the day went on, it got more and more intense. By the time we reached the 17th hole, it became difficult to breathe. I was 1 up but missed the green with my tee shot. As I'm walking to the green I see Seve Ballesteros talking to a teammate in Spanish. Trying to keep things light, I say, 'Hey, Seve, what did you say?' He looked at me and says, 'I said, "Too bad you didn't knock it in the water." ' That didn't bother me at all. He's competitive. That's fine."
A CAPTAIN'S BURDENLanny Wadkins (Golf Digest, April 2006) on the strain of being a captain:A CAPTAIN'S BURDEN"I was on several losing Ryder Cup teams as a player, none as painful as the loss when I was captain [1995 at Oak Hill]. I thought I'd done everything perfectly, and still we got beat. At around midnight, as I sat in my room alone with a lot of drink in me, the phone rang. It was Tom Watson. 'I knew you'd still be up,' he said. 'Don't worry about it. It happens. You did everything right.' "
THE CROWDSLee Trevino (Golf Digest, September 1996) on handling the opposing galleries:THE CROWDS"I'll tell you what hurt my players more than anything (at the 1985 Ryder Cup at the Belfry). This is the one thing I preached to them every time I got them in that room. I said, 'Don't pay any attention to the gallery. I've played six of these damn things, and the galleries will really get to you here. When you miss a putt, you're going to think you made an eagle. They're going to laugh and applaud like you ain't never seen before. That is going to stand your hair up on your neck.' They were not able to handle the galleries.' "
SPORTSMANSHIPDave Stockton (Golf Digest, September 2006) on how the teams handled winning and losing following the "War By The Shore":SPORTSMANSHIP"Two buses had been arranged to transport the respective teams to the closing dinner. As our guys start to board our bus, Ian Woosnam calls out, 'Hey, Stockie, can't we all fit on one bus?' I stammered that it probably was possible, if a few guys didn't mind standing. 'All right then!' says Woosie, and he picks up Corey Pavin and carries him onto the bus. So we all came and left together. I was tremendously impressed by the sportsmanship of the European players. They were devastated, but they never lost sight of what it was all about. This 'War by the Shore' stuff, the ugly things that came about, they all happened later."
TOUGH LOVEPayne Stewart (Golf Digest, June 1999) on losing to the Europeans at Muirfield Village in 1987:TOUGH LOVE"Muirfield was not nice. And [captain] Jack Nicklaus let us know about it when we finished. We had a little meeting before the dinner we had to go to that night, and Jack just wore us out. He told us, 'You guys just don't know how to win. How many matches were we leading going into 18 and didn't win them? Look at you, Payne Stewart. You make all this money on tour, but how many tournaments have you won? Why don't you win more?' He said, 'You guys need to learn how to win or you're going to continue getting beaten in this thing.' There wasn't any sugarcoating it. I'll tell you, that speech was good for me."
TEAMWORKTony Jacklin (Golf Digest, September 2002) on the importance of competing as a single unit:TEAMWORK"In the Ryder Cup, one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel. In 1979 at The Greenbrier, we had a player who sabotaged any chance of our team putting up a fight. This guy didn't show up for team meetings, he disrespected the team captains, didn't stand up for the national anthems, didn't wear the right uniforms and wouldn't help his partners. He signed the menu at the team dinner, and then was told the menu was for a priest. He asked for the menu back and added, 'son of a bitch' after his name. The point is, the Ryder Cup is all about being a team, and this fellow only cared about himself."
TIMES HAVE CHANGEDTom Weiskopf (Golf Digest, April 2000) on the American celebration after Justin Leonard's putt at Brookline in 1999:TIMES HAVE CHANGED"None of the players on the Ryder Cup teams I played on would have run out on the green like that. Can you imagine Jack Nicklaus charging onto the green while another guy has a putt to tie the hole? Honest to God, think about that."
GAMESMANSHIPCurtis Strange (Golf Digest, February 2005) on what it was like to compete against Seve:GAMESMANSHIP"Some pros are harder to play with than others, and the worst was Seve Ballesteros. To say he was difficult is an understatement. To a man, every player who went up against him in the Ryder Cup had a run-in with him. His gamesmanship was irritating, and he never let up. He'd do outrageous, childish things like coughing as you got set to swing, and if you objected he'd act wounded and escalate the situation. When he put himself into the role of victim, that's when he'd play his best. Just knowing he'd use a nasty incident to play well made me so mad that I'd play worse. There was only one Seve, and a little of him went a long way. But I'll tell you this, he could back it up."
PASSIONDave Stockton (Golf Digest, September 2006) on the mentality needed to win:PASSION"Paul Casey didn't deserve the crap he took for his comment about the U.S. Ryder Cup team. ['We properly hate them.'] I knew exactly where he was coming from. Look, it's easier to get up for an opponent you don't like. That's sports. I was and am friends with Bernard Gallacher and Sam Torrance, but for one week every two years I manufactured a very real dislike for them. I wanted to kick their ass. The problem is not Paul Casey hating the Yanks, it's our guys feeling a little too neutral about the Europeans."
WINNING SECRETNick Faldo (Golf Digest, July 2006) on the European team's formula for success:WINNING SECRET"There are some secrets you'll never get out of me. The biggest is the strategy we Europeans use in foursomes during the Ryder Cup. It's one area of the Ryder Cup we've dominated, and this strategy really is the reason we've won four of the last five Ryder Cups. Tony Jacklin invented it, and it's beautiful in its simplicity and devastating in terms of its effectiveness in the alternate-shot format. If the Americans got wind of it, there would go the Ryder Cup. It's subtle, but very visible when you look at it head-on. An observant person can see it."
STRATEGYDave Stockton (Golf Digest, September 2006) on the importance of having a good plan:STRATEGYMomentum is a funny thing. In the Sunday singles, I believe in sending your strongest players out first and last, positioning the guys who aren't playing well in the middle. So (In the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah) I led off with Payne Stewart and Raymond going off first, and darned if Bernard Gallacher didn't put the strongest part of his lineup in the middle. And when Payne and Raymond fell behind, I thought we might be in trouble. But Mark Calcavecchia, who went off third, was just burying Colin Montgomerie, at one point going 5 up. The rest of the team was really inspired by that and played great. Calcavecchia lost the last four holes, of course, and halved his match, but by then the momentum had been established. So even though Mark felt humiliated, his performance really was our greatest weapon.