Darren Clarke tells us why the Ryder Cup is like a drug to him. Plus three winning captains share their secrets.
Hear exclusively from Justin Rose, Chris Wood, Martin Kaymer and Padraig Harrington about Europe’s chances.
Join us on a trip to Hazeltine to find out which are the key holes, and how Davis Love might set it up for his men.
Clarke made his debut at the 1997 Ryder Cup in Valderrama under the leadership of Severiano Ballesteros. It was a changing of the guard in the European team, with Clarke one of five rookies. Three played on day one, but Clarke was not one of them. Ignacio Garrido of Spain, Sweden’s Jesper Parnevik and Englishman Lee Westwood all got a taste of the action, but Clarke sat out the whole of the day. His mood might have been improved by the fact that the other chap not called on by Seve that day was Ian Woosnam, a European titan and a Major champion earlier that decade, but nevertheless it was not an enjoyable experience for such a proud man.
You had a different experience of the Ryder Cup last time, working for television. How did that work out?
Working with Sky at the Ryder Cup, I wanted to do it well; I wasn’t just going there to offer a few boring quotes. I wanted to do it as well as I could. But it was quite straightforward really, because it was an arena I knew well – I knew the European players well and I knew a lot of the American players. I am pretty comfortable in front of the camera, it is part of what we do as tour players. I enjoyed it, it was very good and you try to be as unbiased as you can. Even though I was delighted with how Europe played, cheerleading isn’t what your viewer at home always wants to hear.
What makes a good captain do you think?
You’ve got to be balanced in your decision-making and understand that 99 per cent of people might not think you are correct, but you do what’s best for everybody. It’s not about me, it’s about the players, it’s about the team.
It takes a brave man to rise from the ashes after overseeing America’s most dramatic capitulation, but Davis Love III has waited long enough to try and banish the memories from four years ago. He’s leading the US team into battle once again and with Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Tom Lehman and Tiger Woods in his corner, he has got one of the most experienced backroom staff in Ryder Cup history. But will it be enough to right the wrongs of Medinah?
What have you learned from 2012?
I don’t think we were really cocky going in, but we weren’t thinking we’d have a four-point lead on Saturday night. We’ll be a little bit more prepared what to say and we’ll know our players maybe a little bit better this time. That’s what Paul Azinger did really well in 2008. He knew his guys really well, and he had Raymond Floyd to talk to these guys if there was a problem. And I think we’re going to have more experienced assistant captains in our group this time.
Have you adapted your preparations?
The only difference from 2012 is I’ve got experienced guys already working on it. We didn’t wait until the month before to get assistant captains together to start talking about pairings. Tom has been a captain and he knows what I’m going through. He’s got a list of things and is handling the practice rounds. Jim and I are working on a few things. Steve’s working on some fitness and foods and things like that. Everyone’s taking some pressure off me.
Sure, the spate of recent Ryder Cup losses have hurt. We want to win, though I don’t think it hurts as much for the Americans as it does the European side. The Ryder Cup is held in such high regard and esteem by the American players, but I don’t think our fans are quite as much into it. Having said that, I think they’ll come out in their droves at Hazeltine. They’ll be respectful, but there will be a lot of red, white and blue on show. It’s going to be a great spectacle.
The reason it’s become such a big deal is that the Europeans kept kicking American ass and all of a sudden we started paying attention to that. We dominated it for so long, but now every two years we’ve got our work cut out.
Padraig Harrington will have a key role to play as one of Darren Clarke’s five assistants at Hazeltine. After six appearances as a player – four on the victorious side – Harrington’s run came to an end at Gleneagles in 2014, though he provided great inspiration to Paul McGinley’s triumphant side. He’s hoping for a repeat performance this year, telling TG: “There’s nothing like the Ryder Cup. It’s unbelievable pressure, tension, excitement – very much them and us and we’re the country cousins with a point to prove and a chip on our shoulder. There’s always conspiracy theories which all adds to the drama.”
Justin Rose has played in three Ryder Cups and has a phenomenal record, taking starring roles in the victories at Medinah and Gleneagles. In 2014 he was the home side’s talisman, undefeated in five outings. Two years earlier he produced one of the many Miracles at Medinah, staging a late singles comeback by sinking 10, 35 and 15-foot putts on the last three holes to defeat home hero Phil Mickelson and break US hearts.
The 2013 US Open champion is chomping at the bit to get stuck into the Americans again, but believes Europe will need to produce something extraordinary to retain the trophy on American soil…
The secrets of Europe’s recent success? We just enjoy one another’s company, have fun in the team room and that helps us to deliver and achieve our aims on the course. So far Darren Clarke is doing a very good job. He’s very relaxed, very experienced and I think he will prepare the team well, especially playing in America which is obviously a bit more difficult. I think he’s the right person to ensure the team is ready for the challenge ahead.
Combine emotions, egos, national pride and patriotism and what do you get? Peter Masters selects the five greatest Ryder Cup encounters in history.