WITH the likes of Jim Furyk “tired of losing Ryder Cups” and still “stinging” from Medinah, PGA of America president Ted Bishop believes the United States are ready to spark a winning run in the event at Gleneagles next month.
Bishop, who engineered the move that will see Tom Watson become the contest’s oldest captain at the age of 64, also reckons Keegan Bradley can inspire the visitors in Perthshire in the same way Ian Poulter did with Europe in the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ two years ago.
Furyk, a captain’s pick on that occasion, was one up with two holes to play against Sergio Garcia in the singles but bogeyed them both as the Spaniard picked up a valuable point in Europe’s sensational 14.5-13.5 triumph.
It was a sickening blow for Furyk, who’d already been on four previous losing teams and, according to Bishop, has no intention of suffering the same horrible experience this time around.
“I think being here at Valhalla this week can inspire our players to a degree,” he said of the 96th PGA Championship being played at the venue where Paul Azinger’s team - Furyk was in it - recording the only US victory in the event in the last six matches.
“However, I had the opportunity to be with Tom Watson at Gleneagles the weekend between the Scottish Open and the Open Championship when he invited potential players to join him there. Keegan Bradley came in and played on the Saturday and Jim Furyk on the Sunday.
“I remember sitting having breakfast with Jim before he played and I asked him, ‘why are you doing this as it seems an imposition because you are already on the team?’ He replied, ‘I’ll tell you what, I’m so tired of losing Ryder Cups and I’m still stinging from the loss at Medinah that I want to put in as much preparation as I can to get a win’.
“I honestly think the memories of Medinah, whether you were on that team or not, are pretty deep-seated with the American players and I think that might be as much a motivating factor as coming back here to Valhalla and what happened in ‘08.
“Keegan was the same - all those guys, in fact. I played with Phil in the Scottish Open Pro-Am this year and we talked about the Ryder Cup. Tom has been good at not letting players forget about what happened at Medinah - he’s definitely using that as motivation.”
While Poulter, with his five-birdie blitz in the Saturday fourballs, ended up playing the pivotal role in Chicago, Bradley energised the Americans in the opening three sessions by picking up three points in the company of Phil Mickelson.
The 2011 US PGA champion headed into this year’s event lying outside the nine automatic qualifying spots but seems certain to secure one of Watson’s picks if he fails to climb into one of those positions come tomorrow night.
“I think Keegan can be our Ian Poulter,” insisted Bishop. “He’s got a lot of energy and a lot of passion for the Ryder Cup. “I was impressed with him that weekend at Gleneagles. He arrived at 7.30am in the morning, we teed off at 10.45 and played 18 holes with Tom. He was then back on a plane down to Hoylake and he did it on his dime. He paid his own expenses and I think it spoke a lot of just how bad he wanted to be on the team.
“Playing the golf course with him I could see that it suits up perfectly for him. He’s a long, high hitter and I think he impressed Tom. I think it was a smart thing for Tom to do by inviting him to be there.”
While Bishop acknowledges that Europe are going to be heavy favourites heading into the match, especially with so many of the American players struggling with injury and form, he is confident it will be anything but a one-sided contest.
“The comparison to how the competition is going right now is similar to how it was before it became Europe,” he said. “The only thing I still say, however, is a bit of fallacy about the recent European domination of the Ryder Cup is the fact how close these matches have been.
“With the exception of Oakland Hills and The K Club, which were blowouts, the rest of them have been very close matches. The last two, for example, have been decided by a point and, in fact, in the last 13 Ryder Cups seven of the 13 have been decided by one point and nine of the 13 by two, I believe.
“It’s a break here or there and as we all know golf can often run in cycles. I just think that if the United States could rack up a win then it could help turn that.”