Sam Torrance: Ryder Cup could be an epic, but I take Europe to win by one
THE atmosphere is building here in Medinah. We are about to see arguably two of the strongest Ryder Cup teams of all time go head to head.
All the speculation right now is about the pairings. I would see Rory McIllroy and Graeme McDowell heading out first. Ian Poulter and Justin Rose would be a pair for me, and you can perm any two from Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia. As for our own Paul Lawrie, my money would be on him possibly being paired with Nicolas Colsaerts – maybe look out for that tomorrow afternoon.
Much is made about giving every player a game before the singles. My own view is that you send out the players who will most likely win you the points. If a player has to go through five matches to give you the best chance of getting scores on the board, then that’s what you do. This is where the input of the vice-captains is vitally important. Captain Jose-Maria Olazabal can’t watch all the games on the course simultaneously and he doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for the games to conclude before submitting his pairings for the afternoon.
Each of the vice-captains will follow a match in the morning and their feedback on the players’ form will be critical in helping Ollie reach a decision on his afternoon selections.
This is one of the most closely-matched Ryder Cups I can remember. I would give the European team the edge as a unit but I think home advantage evens things up for the US. It then comes down to the small margins to give you an edge. Whenever a player has a problem it is addressed quietly and efficiently, the food is right for everyone, a player wants for nothing, there are a million things.
It can also be something like the speeches at the Opening Ceremony, and how your captain performs can give you a psychological edge. So far, Ollie has been fantastic with the media and I expect him to continue to shine in the glare of the public. Ollie will know how important it is to maintain the respect of his team and he will have put every effort into his captain’s duties off the course as well as on it.
On that first tee is when it comes down to the players, though. It doesn’t matter who you are as a player, you will be nervous, scared even, before that first shot. What you need to do is stand up, look your opponent in the eye, show no fear and go on and beat him.
The crowd will play their part. Chicago is a massive sports-mad city and the fans will be out in great numbers and be very vociferous at Medinah. It can be intimidating for the players. Looking back from my perspective, I always believed the best way to silence the crowd at a US Ryder Cup was through birdies. The way this course is set up, birdies may not be enough this year. Davis Love III has cut back most of the rough which will make for low scoring but I don’t see that as an advantage for the US Team – it equally suits us.
Davis has also cut back the rough around the greens, which I think could be an edge for us. We have been doing that for the last 20 years at home Ryder Cups. My own view is that the US team may have been slightly better at coming out of thick rough next to the green but that “advantage” has now gone. Green speeds should be fine for Europe as well as the Americans – we have so many players with experience of playing in the US now.
After a match-day, the team all gather in the Team Room for a half-hour meeting. All can share their experiences and any concerns or suggestions and then we eat together. It’s a fantastic atmosphere of camaraderie, a magical place to be and an amazing experience being part of a Ryder Cup team.
If there was a message I would give to the players, it’s to embrace the occasion. This could be the greatest day of your golfing career, something you will remember forever, so go out and enjoy it. Be true to yourself, play your own game and you will leave the course with no regrets, win, lose or draw.
I’m fortunate enough to be out here in Medinah ahead of the weekend. I saw all the boys yesterday and was able to wish them well. I’m happy to report that Team Europe are in a buoyant mood and I feel we could be in for an epic. It’s Europe by one for me.
• Sam Torrance, the former Ryder Cup player and captain, write exclusively in The Scotsman today in his capacity as Caledonia Best Clubhouse Captain.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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