How important is the Ryder Cup to you?
Very, very important. It’s a goal of mine every time it rolls around to make the team. I’ve played in two Ryder Cups, both of which were in America, so I’m keen to play for the home team. Being on the winning team at Medinah was just amazing. I was fortunate enough to win a major and went out and celebrated with close friends and family. But when you celebrate as a team, wow, there’s nothing better than that. It was truly an amazing evening.
What do you remember of the first Ryder Cup you watched?
My dad took me to the 1989 match at The Belfry. The players seemed like giants or gods. And I remember the bags being eye-catching. Those are my two most vivid memories.
How do your experiences in Valhalla and Medinah compare?
They were both very positive experiences for me. I took a lot out of both of them. As a team we lost at Valhalla, but as an individual I did very well and took three out of four points. I beat Phil (Mickelson) in the singles so I came away feeling I was a better golfer because of what I had experienced. You never know what to expect at your first Ryder Cup but, having played a second, I now know it’s all about ‘team’. Your individual record doesn’t really matter. The joy of winning as a team is what it’s all about.
What did you learn from Sir Nick Faldo and José Maria Olazabal as captains?
Obviously, Nick was a slightly criticised captain, but anybody who doesn’t win gets criticised. Davis Love was thought of as a great captain until Sunday when he came in for serious criticism. That’s just the way it is. But Nick gave me every opportunity to play so it was a very positive experience. It was the same with José. He trusted me to go out and play all five matches. I didn’t necessarily want to play all five, but he wanted me to and so you do whatever’s required. If the captain says he needs you to play, you go out and play.
What makes a good partner and with whom would you ideally like to play?
What makes a good partner is Ian Poulter. Who do I fancy playing with? Ian Poulter.
What are you expecting from your first Ryder Cup on European soil?
If I can be presumptuous and assume I make the team, then noise… hearing the crowd really cheer for you. Every Ryder Cup is boisterous but while in the States I’ve always had a hard-core group doing their best and cheering for me, I’ve never had the majority of the crowd behind me. I’m looking forward to experiencing that.
Have you played the PGA Centenary course at Gleneagles?
I played the Scottish PGA there in the early-to-mid 2000s. But I haven’t been there for a while. Gleneagles as a resort is incredible. In my opinion, the Centenary course will make a good Ryder Cup venue. There are some good par 5s and the 18th will make a great finishing hole. It’s got everything a Ryder Cup needs to be successful. In reality, I think the atmosphere is what makes the Ryder Cup. You could play the Ryder Cup on any municipal course and it would still be incredible. It always throws up something special.
Do you think the course will suit the Americans because a lot of people think it’s rather American in style?
It depends how we set it up. There’s a big difference between how the Americans play and how we play. Bubba and Tiger hit a long ball but not necessarily straight. If you set the course up in a way that will suit us then you secure considerable home course advantage. You can take any course and set it up to suit your team, which is what happens.
Have you watched any footage of Medinah?
There’s an hour’s worth of highlights of the Saturday and Sunday afternoon play on YouTube. It’s amazing how it played out. My putt on 17 during the singles against Phil [Mickelson] came at a critical point. The tide was turning and then there was a little bit of a swing back. Then my putt seemed to restore that positive momentum. In the moment, you don’t have that awareness. You’re only trying to win your point. Although a lot of people have said that I turned the Ryder Cup, each of us had a mission that day to bring a point home for our team. Every match was pivotal. One thing I’ve learned is that you can play your best golf under pressure. Every Ryder Cup produces spectacular golf under the most extreme pressure. Just because you’re nervous doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
Do you think it’ll feel any different coming into this Ryder Cup having won a major?
I don’t see the major champions as any different from the rest of the team. Everyone is in it together. Everyone seems uptight and nervous but obviously keen to go. The Ryder Cup is so unique there’s not a lot that can prepare you for it. Tiger’s won 14 majors but hasn’t got a great Ryder Cup record. It’s a very different animal.
Why I love my rivalry with Phil... I’ve had the edge so far, but I know he’ll be out for revenge. At Medinah, I started birdie, birdie and got a couple up. But Phil played really well – he didn’t miss a fairway all day. You sometimes wait for Phil to miss a fairway, but it never happened, and he was 1-up at 16. The pivotal hole was the short par-4 15th. He hit it just short of the green and I hit it into the left greenside bunker and left it in there with a plugged lie for my next shot. But I got it up and down to save par. Phil chipped up to seven feet but missed. It kept me in it. A lot of people remember my putt at 17, but it was the putt at 18 of which I’m most proud. I remember saying to myself, ‘This is the putt that matters. If you make it you can come away feeling proud of yourself.’ And I made it.