Ryder Cup 2023
Ryder Cup 2023: 9 interesting things we learned this week from Europe and U.S. player interviews
Sam Burns shaved a "USA" into his hair ahead of the Ryder Cup.
ROME — Over the course of two days, 24 players sat on the relative hot seat in the Ryder Cup interview room. They were mostly insightful, enthusiastic, introspective, rarely touchy and, most welcomed of all, sometimes hilarious.
These guys are the most sought-after interviews in the game, and they can sometimes switch into auto-response mode. Not this week. They all clearly love the Ryder Cup, the atmosphere, the team camaraderie, and the hoopla that comes with it.
They can also teach us some stuff that we maybe didn’t know. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of some of the interesting nuggets we learned about the players, their thoughts and a sport called shinty.
Sam Burns went lone wolf with the razor
The American rookie said of carving a roughly scribbled “USA” into the side of his mullet cut: “When you start shaving things into the side of your head, you're kind of asking for it, I guess. But it's been fun.”
Noted Brooks Koepka, who had his own mullet: “Sam’s has got a nice Kentucky waterfall going. It's pretty solid, although the USA that's inscribed in the side of his head, I don't know if he was doing that looking in a mirror because … ‘USA’ doesn't look the best, but it makes it even better, I think. It definitely classes it up a little bit.”
There’s nothing like walking to the first hole of a Ryder Cup
Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland stand on the first tee before their Sunday's singles match in the 2021 Ryder Cup.
Montana Pritchard/PGA of America
“We showed up at 4:30, 5 in the morning and people were slowly filling the stands and they started singing before we could even get out of our locker room,” Collin Morikawa said. “That's the coolest thing, and this locker room [at Marco Simone] is even way closer to the first hole so we're going to start hearing that before we even show up. Obviously, not American songs, but I think it's awesome. It shows what the Ryder Cup is about. There's that energy to it.”
Brian Harman has a favorite tree
The European press has become fascinated with Open champion Brian Harman’s country-boy vibe, keen to ask him about hunting and riding a tractor. But after Harman expressed his love for the foliage he’s seen in Rome, an American reporter asked what his favorite tree is.
Harman’s face lit up and he said, “Yeah, the swamp chestnut tree. You guys aren't familiar with swamp chestnuts? They call them cow oaks, too, because when we used to graze cattle, they would graze them through the swamps and they'd eat these giant acorns, so they call them cow oaks or swamp chestnuts.”
Rickie Fowler noticed more than the trees in Rome
Rickie Fowler speaks to the media during the Ryder Cup.
Scott Taetsch/PGA of America
Maybe it was Italian pride, or possibly trying to catch the Americans looking foolish, but a few U.S. players were asked what their favorite parts of Rome were. Fowler got a particularly dicey query about knowing the history of the Eternal City, yet he handled it with top-level diplomacy.
“I probably would have had more knowledge on it back in probably middle school when I was taking history classes, and it was a bit more fresh,” Fowler said. “It was special to walk around because when we left here and went back, I was in New York for two days, and you see the things that are older for our home country, and we're over here, and then you think of the timeline of Rome and walking around and seeing all the ruins and what an old building really is.
“… It's hard to wrap your head around it when you look at really anything, but walking by the Pantheon and seeing how small the bricks are that ultimately make up that structure, it's not like those bricks were being printed out at a factory down the street. Everything is handmade.
“I think a big thing with that is kind of seeing the big picture and having the patience to understand what it takes to get from start to finish.”
Seve's presense emotionally lives on in the European team room
“There's a football changing room feel to it,” said Ryder Cup rookie Robert MacIntyre. “You've obviously got the lockers on the one side and then you go through to another room—it gives you goosebumps when you walk into that room and you see, they have got a shirt of Seve. It's special. You're in a special week. You're in a golf tournament that means the world to the best players in the planet, and I'm sure once I kind of get more into it, it will be the same for me.”
MacIntyre introduced us to a Scottish sport we’d literally never heard
Robert MacIntyre hits a tee shot during practice.
From pictures and descriptions, the sport of shinty looks something a kin to field hockey, but MacIntyre, who played it as a youth, compared it to being on a golf team. “So the sport I play, shinty, it's 12 a side, but it's man on man,” MacIntyre said. “It's not like football, where you've got the team will attack you and they have got a formation they are going to attack you with. … my dad is a coach, but he always says, ‘Look, if you do your job right, then I'll look after the guy there. If you do your job right, it takes care of it.’
“It's the same in the team aspect for golf. I get it's the team bits; individual again, and if I do my job, it helps the rest of the guys. I'm trying to take that into it. … The main thing is just do your job well, and it will help the main goal.”
Sepp Straka's household isn't divided this week
Sepp Straka bumps fists with Rory McIlroy.
The former University of Georgia golfer explained that while from different backgrounds, his parents allegances are united this week. “My mom, who is American, has been wearing an Austria hat all last week while she was in Austria. Yeah, I think they are all Team Europe.”
The golf ball will present some interesting strategy for players in foursomes
Here's how Rory McIlroy explained it: “I think all these golf balls react pretty similar with a driver. It's more the iron shots and around the greens. If I'm playing with a guy that uses a different golf ball, I can just hit his golf ball off the tee. He's able to hit it into the green and we go from there. … Yeah, it can get a little tricky and you're chipping and putting and different feels of balls.
“Spin rates is a big thing. Especially in the wind gets up in some of these elevations. Just if you're into the wind, and, say, the other golf ball spins 200 or 300 more RPMs more than your golf ball, that makes a huge difference into the wind. So just trying to get comfortable with that in some ways and trying to be mindful of it.
"But I don't think it presents a huge challenge. I think guys are pretty much adaptable. We have 24 of the best players in the world here. If we can't adapt a little bit to a slight change of the golf ball, the game is certainly not going in the right direction.”
McIlroy is likely the most respected player on either team
Remember when McIlroy downplayed the importance of the Ryder Cup? Well that's long gone and he obviously very, very, very badly wants to win. And his place in golf and the Ryder Cup is solid in the eyes of his teammates and rivals. "He's been one of the players that's kept the momentum going that was started a generation or two before us and before him," Justin Rose said. "And I think he has a really good appreciation of history and the history of the game of golf, and the guys that have come before him.
"He's a legend of the game and will continue to be a legend of the game. It's hard to see yourself that way when you're playing, but I think that is his trajectory. I think that he will have a huge role in this team for the next decade-plus."
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