RY­DER CUP ROOK­IES

I made my Ry­der Cup de­but in front of the in­tim­i­dat­ing Amer­i­can crowds and I be­lieve this year’s crop of first-timers can thrive in that in­tense at­mos­phere

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he Ry­der Cup qual­i­fy­ing process is mov­ing to­wards its ex­cit­ing con­clu­sion. When I made the team for Val­halla in 2008, I re­mem­ber that de­spite play­ing re­ally well at the be­gin­ning of the year with a few sec­ond places, the Ry­der Cup wasn’t re­ally on my radar. Then I went to Went­worth and lost in a play-off to Miguel An­gel Jimenez for the BMW PGA in May, and that threw me right into the mix. From then on, mak­ing the team be­came my main goal for the rest of the year.

I played de­cently, went up to the fi­nal qual­i­fy­ing event at Gle­nea­gles and had a great back nine to my sec­ond round to make the cut be­fore play­ing well at the week­end. It was just an un­be­liev­able re­lief to make it, and prob­a­bly the most pres­sure I’ve ever felt as a pro­fes­sional, be­cause it had been a life­long goal to get on that team and then all of a sud­den it was right there within my grasp. Ob­vi­ously there were a few other guys try­ing to make it, too, and I knew I wasn’t go­ing to get a pick if I didn’t qual­ify. So it was in­cred­i­ble to get it done and that gave me a lot of con­fi­dence, but the over­all feel­ing was one of re­lief.

Lee West­wood was the first to get in touch shortly after Gle­nea­gles – he gave me a call to say well done, and give me a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing and aware­ness of just what it was go­ing to be like, es­pe­cially on that 1st tee! He told me that was go­ing to be very in­tense, and from what I’d seen and what Lee told me, I vi­su­alised a very in­tim­i­dat­ing tee shot daily. That re­ally helped, be­cause once I got there, yes, it was an in­cred­i­ble mo­ment, but I ac­tu­ally felt very com­fort­able. The adrenalin was go­ing and it was an elec­tric at­mos­phere, but I was pretty re­laxed and re­ally quite calm. I don’t know why be­cause I’ve never been that calm on a golf course be­fore, but I think vi­su­al­is­ing and build­ing stuff up in your head to be worse than it’s go­ing to be can re­ally help when you get there.

I played four­somes with Hen­rik Sten­son on the sec­ond day against Phil Mick­el­son and An­thony Kim, and we were 4dn through six, so that wasn’t a great start. We played well even over those first six holes – they just got off to an in­cred­i­ble start. But we kept peck­ing away, got it back to all square and then man­aged to win 2&1. It was a fan­tas­tic mo­ment in my ca­reer.

I hit the first tee shot, which I was quite pleased about be­cause it’s an ex­pe­ri­ence you will never for­get. Hen­rik

Tand I made that de­ci­sion after plot­ting our way around the course be­fore­hand. We fig­ured there were a cou­ple of car­ries that Hen­rik would make a lot more eas­ily, and a cou­ple of longer par 3s that it would be bet­ter for him to hit into due to his length. That worked pretty well.

As for my sin­gles match, I played well but was a lit­tle un­lucky to draw an in­spired Boo Week­ley. I think I was fou­run­der, which was pretty good around there and would have beaten ev­ery other US player, I be­lieve. But Boo was on fire – it’s still the best round of golf I’ve ever wit­nessed and he says it was one of the best rounds of golf he’s ever played. So it was dis­ap­point­ing, but that’s match play.

As for this year’s rook­ies, I’m not sure what ad­vice I can of­fer, be­cause if they’ve qual­i­fied for the team as rook­ies, it’s ob­vi­ously be­cause they are play­ing well and are full of con­fi­dence. Gen­er­ally they are go­ing to be a bit younger, too, so they feel in­vin­ci­ble, and mak­ing the team is just a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion. They are full of con­fi­dence, and with good course strat­egy and the right pairings, that’s all you need. The are go­ing to be go­ing there know­ing that they are good enough to beat any­one.

One thing I did find was that it was pos­si­ble to turn the at­mos­phere of the Amer­i­can fans into a pos­i­tive. You don’t re­ally lis­ten to the words and the fact that they are chant­ing ‘U-S-A, U-S-A’ – you just feed off the noise and the at­mos­phere, and it spurs you on. The Amer­i­cans might think it’s af­fect­ing you, but it didn’t for me, and that can help you dra­mat­i­cally. But I think our team this time, as far as rook­ies go, is go­ing to be pretty strong, so I wouldn’t be too wor­ried.

I was play­ing nicely in the build-up to Val­halla, and al­though I wasn’t swing­ing great the week of the event, I was con­fi­dent com­ing into it. The big­gest prob­lem is turn­ing up not play­ing well as there is no time for prac­tice. The days are filled with prac­tice rounds, me­dia, au­to­graphs and other stuff. You’re ob­vi­ously in such a caul­dron that you want to feel con­fi­dent, and if you’re not, it can eat away at you a bit. But I don’t think there will be too much of a prob­lem on that front at Hazel­tine this year.

ÒIt was pos­si­ble to turn the at­mos­phere of the Amer­i­can fans into a pos­i­tive. You donÕt re­ally lis­ten to the words, you just feed off the noiseÓ

2008 Ry­der Cup­per, Oliver Wil­son, is now into his 12th year on the Euro­pean Tour, dur­ing which time he has en­joyed the sup­port of long-term spon­sors, Call­away Golf, Hugo Boss and Orion Group

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