Darren Clarke’s motto for this Ryder Cup is “shoulder to shoulder” and the European captain turned to rugby union legend Paul O’Connell to help deliver that message to his players last nignt.
O’Connell, the former Munster, Ireland and British Lions captain, was the man enlisted by Clarke to address his team in a similar way that Paul McGinley, whose motto was “wave after wave”, used Sir Alex Ferguson at Gleneagles two years ago.
“Part of my whole through process for the week is shoulder to shoulder to shoulder, one team, one unit, and there’s no finer example of shoulder to shoulder than Paul O’Connell,” said Clarke of the most-capped player in Irish rugby.
“He has legendary status, both at home and in terms of the leading the British Lions who always play away from home. He was my choice to come and address the team this evening and I’m very excited to hear what he has to say.”
Clarke has also used images – one of rocks near his home in Portrush and another of the 12 European players in action this week – in the team room to try to get his message across.
“I haven’t actually met Paul, but I’ve gone to watch him many times playing for Ireland and we have spoken at length about my thinking for the team and he is aware that a lot of my imagery is connected with shoulder to shoulder,” added the former Open champion.
By the sounds of things, Clarke’s counterpart, Davis Love III, is using the most experienced player in the event’s history, Phil Mickelson, to do his motivational work this week. “Phil is a big part of the leadership of this team and you can see it on and off the golf course,” said Love of Mickelson, the man whose public criticism of Tom Watson two years ago led to a taskforce being set up in a bid to stop Team USA’s rot in the event after three straight defeats. “I like the way he thinks and I like his planning.”