Rookies can cope with the pressure
Clarke backs newcomers to impress
When the 41st edition of the Ryder Cup gets under way on Friday at Hazeltine there will be a different kind of pressure for both sides. The US team are seen as favourites and must handle the weight of expectation in front of a passionate home crowd in Minnesota. While for Europe, the 12 players do not want to be the first side to lose a Ryder Cup after three consecutive triumphs. Darren Clarke’s side also includes six rookies who will be determined not to let down their European counterparts. And while the Americans may see that as an advantage in trying to regain the trophy, Clarke insists his new boys have earned their place on merit and can help Europe continue their domination of the event. “It’s unquestionable that it’s going to be a very, very big task ahead of us,” said Clarke. “Davis’ team is also shaping up very, very strongly. But with this team, those guys have earned their right to be on the team. They have embraced the challenge. They have got on there and they are world-class players in their own right. With adding Thomas Pieters [inset] to that list, there are six rookies there, but with the talent that they all possess, I’ve got no worries at all about the strength of that team going to America.
“I’m proud of that team. It’s a team that’s going to go there and do everything we possibly can to bring that trophy back home again.”
While Clarke has spoken of the immense challenge that lies ahead for his team, his American counterpart, Davis Love III, has been talking up the talent of his dozen. He claims it is the “best team ever assembled” and told his players that they are the ones that must go out there and perform.
“If we don’t win, if Europe doesn’t win, Darren and I are going to have a lot of explaining to do,” said Love. “That’s part of it. But we’re used to the pressure. We’re used to wins and losses.
“One thing [the sport psychologist] Bob Rotella told me: if you’re going to base your happiness on winning and losing, golf is not a good sport to be in because you’re going to lose a lot.
“We enjoy the challenge and we love being on the stage and you’ve got to take the wins with the losses.”
Time will tell which group of players manages to cope with the pressure. But for the now the mind games will continue until that opening tee-shot on Friday.