What it feels like at the Ryder Cup (part 2) ...
... to play in front of the rowdy crowds. To be part of a Sunday charge. To hole the clinching putt.
September 19, 2014
By Brian Wacker, D.J. Piehowski and Sean Martin , PGATOUR.COM
- September 19, 2014
- Martin Kaymer celebrates holing the winning putt at the 2012 Ryder Cup. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
There aren't many tournaments like the Ryder Cup. PGA TOUR players, who compete as individuals throughout the year, are part of a 12-man roster at this biennial event. Players are competing for country and continent, not money.
Have you ever wondered what it's like to stand on the first tee? To hole the winning putt? To nervously wait for the captain to call and say you have been picked for the team?
Borrowing a page from the old Esquire series, we asked and they gave their first-person accounts of those topics and more. PGA TOUR players tell you what it feels like to take part in this intercontinental clash. This is our second installment on the Ryder Cup. Click here to read the first.
What does it feel like ... to play in front of Ryder Cup crowds?
RORY MCILROY: "Honestly, for me it's probably a little more difficult to play at home. Just because of the expectations and you want to do so well, not just for the team and yourself, but for everyone else that's cheering you on. I love that at Medinah when you holed a putt to win a hole and there was silence. I just loved that. That was awesome. But, I think that if you do get off to a good start in matches at home, and the crowd really get behind you, it makes it very difficult for the opponents to try and get some sort of momentumback. So, it's, I guess it's a double-edged sword in some ways."
GRAEME MCDOWELL: "It's fun. It's fun. There's no doubt the crowd have a massive impact on what happens at Ryder Cups. I feel like that you can feel Sunday afternoon at Medinah, you could feel the European momentum by the lack of noise. I think that the alternative happens on the Friday and Saturday at Medinah. You could feel what was happening. You could feel the U.S. steam roller kind of rolling those two days. And it's electric. Kind of gives me goose bumps just thinking about what it's like to hole a putt at the Ryder Cup in front of your home fans. I remember making a putt at Valhalla in 2008 from off the back of the 8th green and it was about a 20-footer and I was going crazy and fist pumping and I realized, bizarrely, that no one had reacted at all in the crowd. And it was a very eery kind of, I felt quite nearly a little embarrassed to be celebrating at all, because no one was really pulling for that putt to go. So it's really bizarre. It's weird. There's a different vibe when you play in front of your home fans. (I’m) looking forward to feeling the hometown buzz again from the home crowd."
ZACH JOHNSON: "The thing I would equate it to, because I love it, is college football. When you play in the U.S., you’re on your in your own stadium. When you’re over there, it’s like going into a hostile environment, but it is exactly what it should be. The fans over there are not obscene, they’re not ridiculous. They cheer for their team extensively, but you might get a smattering (of applause) if you hit a great shot. Given all that, we do have fans over there, too, which is a lot of fun. I’ve played two over there and one here and I don’t know what I like more, frankly. I really like when you have to go out there and fight. I love the underdogs winning on the road. They are both fun, but I think I almost prefer playing over there, especially if you could win one. I just haven’t won one yet."
WEBB SIMPSON: “It was probably the loudest experience I've ever been through. It was amazing to see how much our fans care about the Ryder Cup and then the Europeans, they care equally as much. But it was a cool moment for me as a pro because the Ryder Cup is something I've always wanted to do and be a part of and, you know, I remember thinking since I was a kid I wanted to be on the Ryder Cup team. We're about to go.
"It was just a fun moment. I was certainly nervous but it was exciting nerves and Bubba, he did his thing getting the crowd loud and couldn't really hear anything. It was a moment that I'll be able to tell my grandkids one day about.”
TOM WATSON: "I go back to one thing that I remember very, very clearly, my first Ryder Cup in 1977. I was playing with Hubert Green (in a) four-ball match, and we had our opponents ... 6 down after 10. We played the 11th hole at Lytham & St. Annes, the par-5, and I knocked it on the green in two. Looks like we are going to go dormie. I had a 15-foot putt for birdie and I had 2-putt from about 40 feet. I left my first putt about 5 feet short, and Horton makes the putt, and I miss my 5-footer and there was a cheer that went up when I missed my putt, and that was the first time that there was ever a big cheer when I missed a putt.
"Usually it was when you make a putt, not miss a putt. And then I truly understood that this is the nature of The Ryder Cup, and it's fine. It's fair."
JIM FURYK: "Their crowd is loud. Even when we won at Valhalla (2008), there were 40,000 people there and maybe 3,000 were Europeans, but those 3,000 make a lot of noise. They are really good fans. They’re quite funny. They like to jab at us and pick at us and it’s pretty funny, actually. I laugh along with them usually because some of the stuff they say is really good. But it’s fun when you’re at home and you’ve got that 37,000-fan advantage because eventually our fans get tired of hearing them and they can drown them out. Over there, it’s the exact opposite. You can’t drown out 37,000 people who are screaming and yelling. We always like to say over there that you like to hear the silence. The quieter it is, the better we’re doing. But you can kind of turn that on them too. That rush that they have going, that momentum, you can kind of flip that. Sometimes it’s good to be the underdog on the road and be there scrapping it out. You can use that as motivation to play better."
HUNTER MAHAN: "It's definitely a different vibe, for sure. It's being on the road in an SEC football game. You're in hostile territory and it feels like that. I think that's what makes the Ryder Cup so great now is that there is that kind of imbalance between the two sides and the two places that you play at.
"It creates a lot of great team camaraderie that week. Guys really band together because you know you're really playing against 12 guys, but the fans as well."
What does it feel like ... to be part of a Sunday comeback?
RORY McILROY: "Sunday at Medinah it just felt like it was meant to be. It felt like it was supposed to happen, whether that was fate or something else, it felt like it was supposed to happen. There was so much blue going on on the board. There was no way I should’ve won my match with what happened, turning up late, but I did. There was so much momentum on our side. It felt like it was meant to be."
LUKE DONALD: "In a certain way it’s nice to be chasing. There’s more pressure obviously on the guys with the lead -- four points is a big lead. For my personal game I couldn’t have played better. I didn’t miss a shot and put pressure on Bubba (Watson). Personally it was nice to play that way for my team and get that first point on the board. Then there’s so many changes. When I won I think the next three matches were all even when I finished -- (we) ended up winning. And then at that point you think we could really do this, we could really pull this off and create history. You’re constantly looking at the boards trying to figure out, ‘He’s up, is he gonna win? If he wins then we need just a half-point here.’ It’s just a lot of raw emotion. And then to be around the green when Martin (Kaymer) won and know that we’d done it was pretty cool. Just coming together as a team to create something that will go down in history is always fun. Emotions, we got a little of ourselves with Martin jumping on Sergio (Garcia) -- it didn’t strike until 30 seconds later he hadn’t shaken (Steve) Stricker’s hand. You get carried away on this wave of emotion. It was fun to be a part of."
What does it feel like ... to make the clinching putt?
DAVIS LOVE III: “I was standing over it and I knew I couldn’t make it because I was shaking so bad so I backed off and started over and went back through my routine. It’s a scary feeling because everyone comes out to watch you, so you know it’s getting more and more crucial, and I ended up on the 18th green, which is even worse. You’d rather have it be you than be someone else. It’s not fun, but it’s nice when you make it. I was halfway through my routine and about to pull it back and knew this wasn’t going to work. I calmed myself down and got over it and hit it. Once you get into your routine, it’s a little bit better, but when you start thinking about what it means, and you look at Lanny Wadkins and the guys standing on the side of the green, you can’t make it. When I started over, I felt a little better. And then I was shocked. It went in and it was like, ‘Oh, that was easy.’ I knew the only way I could make it was to focus on my routine and start over again. I just put my arms up. I just walked off and left the ball, I think. I don’t even know what happened to it.” (Note: Love holed a 4-foot putt to clinch the 1993 Ryder Cup.)
MARTIN KAYMER: "You can't describe it. What do you think? You don't think too much. It is just one of those things, you just rely on what you have practiced over the last few years. There's no time to think. If you think, you are in the wrong frame of mind. You just keep doing what you did the last 17 holes and then let things fall into place. Once you think, you're lost. I knew it for the last three holes, it was very, very obvious that this was the putt for the Ryder Cup. There's a lot of relief and a lot of pride, a lot of satisfaction. It's a huge responsibility." (Note: Kaymer holed a 6-foot putt to clinch Europe's victory in the 2012 Ryder Cup.)