Ryder Cup: Calm Kuchar sure he can handle first tee pressure

NERVE-wracking, intimidating. Matt Kuchar had been told about the gut-wrenching experience of players hitting their first shots at a Ryder Cup, yet he felt surprisingly calm on his debut in 2010.

“I had heard all the stories about guys feeling too nervous to tee off but that wasn’t the case for me,” said the American while preparing for today’s opening foursomes matches at Medinah Country Club. “It was all so impressive at Celtic Manor with the noise and the volume of 
support that the country of Wales showed for the European team. It was awesome but I was surprisingly calm.

“I don’t know whether here in Chicago in front of US folks it will be different with more expectations and more people pulling for me.”

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Kuchar, who finished with a 1-1-2 record after playing four matches on his Ryder Cup debut two years ago, said he felt much more nervous in his first Masters in 1998. “I was still an amateur and I can remember just being so nervous,” the 34-year-old added. “I was glad to get the ball balancing on the tee. But with each year and each tournament, you do enough of those and you get more and more comfortable. I still have nerves but not at the extreme of what I had at that first Masters experience.”

While Kuchar eased into his first Ryder Cup with surprising comfort, that might not be the case for the four Americans and one European who will be making their debuts in the biennial team competition this week.

“They say it’s not going to be like anything you’ve ever felt,” US rookie Brandt Snedeker said of the prospect of stepping on to the first tee as a Cup debutant with crowds of 40,000 expected each day at Medinah.

“The only comforting fact is that I know everybody else has felt that way. No matter who I’m playing at the Ryder Cup is going to feel exact the same way that I do.”

Fellow US rookie Jason Dufner, who is known for his laid-back demeanour out on the course, expected to feel anxious more than nervous when he played his first match this week.

“You’re anxious to see how you’re going to play, how the day is going to go,” he added. “But usually, once the round gets started, I kind of get settled in and feel pretty good.

“With this [matchplay] format, it’s a little bit different. You’re not trying to shoot a low score, you’re just trying to play each hole individually and play each hole well. Maybe that will be a little less pressure.

“Obviously the pressure and the environment of this event is going to be nothing that I’ve experienced. So I’m just looking forward to being out there and in that moment and seeing how I respond to it.”