The Loop

The uncommon images that inspired the European Ryder Cup team

September 30, 2014

In 1985 a group of rock stars and musicians gathered in unheard of fashion to record a fundraising album for African relief. Paul Simon, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan ... and many others ... were all there. It promised to be a zoo.

Anticipating the nightmare ahead, producer Quincy Jones posted a sign outside the recording studio:

"Check your ego at the door."

That sentiment, say insiders, was the first (unspoken) rule of European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley's team room this past weekend. No major winners, no World Golf Champions, just equal partners intent on doing Europe proud. Everyone belonged. The rookies -- Victor Dubuisson, Stephen Gallacher, Jamie Donaldson, were all made to feel like full-fledged members of the side. Every player was dedicated to the themes McGinley had established. And those themes, in posters as high as seven feet, were everywhere.

They were the creation of Nick Bradley, who a year ago began working with McGinley on his own game. Bradley showed McGinley Kinetic Golf, Bradley's book of surreal and sometimes bizarre motivational imagery, similar to those he'd created when he worked with Justin Rose. Nine months ago the captain asked him to create posters for the team room stressing themes critical to success. The finished products, which featured the likes of Ian Poulter (below), Graeme McDowell, and the late Seve Ballesteros, included messages that championed emotions such as passion, focus, and resilience. The picture that received the most attention was of a rock in the middle of a raging sea, with the message, "We will be the rock when the storm arrives."


The posters left an impression on the players, who Bradley called "12 guys who all wanted to play for Paul McGinley.  "From the first day we got here, the speeches that he gave, the videos he showed us, the people that he got in to talk to us, the imagery in the team room, it all tied in together," said Rory McIlroy of MicGinley. Said Rose:  "The atmosphere in the team room was fantastic."

What's interesting about the posters McGinley chose is how, while obviously supportive of team concept, they depict certain team leaders who have been, and would be expected to be much more than just one of 12:  Rose, Poulter and McDowell. With the exception of the photo of Ballesteros, McGinley focused not about the icons of the past but about the current player-leaders who lived past virtues. A church of living saints, not dead ones, members now inspiring one another.

When Rose, McDowell and Poulter fell behind early yesterday, all of McGinley's themes were tested. Rose, trailing Hunter Mahan by four holes on the front nine, said he thought of Seve, but was inspired by a past teammate from Medinah. "On the front nine I was basically trying to be Peter Hanson," said Rose. "He was six down to Jason Dufner on the Sunday two years ago but ended up taking him all the way up the 18th. That sent an important message to the rest of the team that day, that we were still in there fighting, and I wanted to send the same message."

Like a rock in a storm.