Thomas Bjorn, the captain, revealed the European team will wear yellow ribbons this week in a tribute to Celia Barquin Arozamena, the promising young Spanish golfer who was murdered on a course in Iowa last week.
Sergio Garcia was dressed from head to toe in black in the opening round of last week’s Portugal Masters as he paid his own personal tribute to Barquin, winner of the European Ladies Amateur Championship earlier this year, and now he is set to join the other members of the home team in remembering the 22-year-old at Le Golf National.
“The golfing family extends way beyond what we are trying to do this week,” said Bjorn. “Celia being killed playing golf is something that’s hit everybody in the golf family, and obviously our two Spanish players (Garcia and Jon Rahm) very much.
“After a conversation from Ryder Cup Europe with Celia’s mother, we felt that we would honour her this week. That’s what we are doing. It’s nothing about us, but it’s just more about that the golfing family gets touched by these things all over the world. It’s terrible when things like this happen.
“She was such a great prospect for the game of golf but also a wonderful person. Sergio and Jon couldn’t talk highly enough about her and we felt like that was appropriate for the week.”
On the first official practice day, Bjorn sprinkled his five rookies through three fourballs. Alex Noren was sent out with Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Garcia; Rahm and Thorbjorn Olesen played with Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey; and Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood paired up with Ian Poulter and Francesco Molinari.
“Not too much, I don’t think, to be honest,” insisted the Dane in reply to being asked if he’d given anything away for later in the week with those groupings. “Today is very much about getting everybody out there. They are enjoying themselves out there, and you get some of the new guys out with somebody with a bit of experience so they can talk the way around, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are pairing up together.
“In any Ryder Cup, things come out of the blue and things develop during the week, but I’m pretty set in my mind (about his pairings for the opening day on Friday).”
McIlroy faded badly in the final round of the Tour Championship in Atlanta after starting the day as one of Tiger Woods’ closest challengers, but Bjorn is tipping the Northern Irishman to be a key man for Europe on his fourth successive appearance in the event.
“The good thing about Rory is that, although he’s maybe not won the last few weeks or months, he’s still there or thereabouts every time he plays, and that shows what quality he has and what he brings on the golf course,” said Bjorn.
“He brings so much in that team room. He’s great to have conversations with. He’s got great ideas. He understands everybody in the team room very well. He really gets under the skin on a lot of those youngsters and they take to him.
“He’s a lot of things. He’s just somebody you want to be like. You put those people like that into a team room, then they raise the mood of everybody else, and he’s very good at that. He’s obviously a big part of this team, but he’s also very understanding that it is a team and it’s about all 12, and that’s what we go with.”
The home team’s first night together in their plush hotel in Versailles was spent laughing at each other as captain Bjorn decided to begin the week in light-hearted fashion by getting impressionist Conor Moore to provide a short video of his interpretations of the 12 players.
“You know, when you get into what’s a week of high pressure, you’ve also got to have a bit of fun,” said Bjorn. “I very much always start in a place with stuff like that; that if you’re going to make fun of people, you’ve got to start making fun of yourself, as well, so that’s kind of where we went with it.
“That set a nice tone. It was a good atmosphere in that room yesterday. I think that there might be one or two that found out a few truths about themselves about how people look at them, but they took that all in great spirits. I’m not sure Justin will be showing his Gold Medal too much the next few days (laughing).”