GLENEAGLES Scotland (Reuters) - A curious piece of scheduling seemingly threw the two Ryder cup teams into sharp relief on Thursday as the last three players from each camp took their turn to face the media.
Just as captains like to backload their singles lineups for a surging Sunday finish, Europe’s final soundbite salvos were launched by Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer.
Poulter’s record -- 12 wins from 15 matches over four Ryder Cups -- makes him Europe’s most successful player in percentage terms and with 11 victories from his last 12 all achieved at maximum volume, he has become his side’s rallying point.
Kaymer, a former world number one, is fresh from adding the U.S. Open to his U.S. PGA title and was the man whose putt secured the trophy two years ago, in his second appearance.
Rose is another major champion, with 10 other U.S. and European tour victories to his name, and a player whose remarkable putting on the final day in Medinah produced a classic comeback win over Phil Mickelson.
Following them into the media hotseat were Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker and Webb Simpson, two rookies and a wildcard pick -- Simpson -- whose abiding Ryder Cup experience from his only appearance was to twice be a victim of Poulter in full flow.
The enduring appeal of the Ryder Cup, however, is that neither reputation, world ranking, experience or past and present form can be relied upon as an indicator of likely performance.
Certainly Simpson did not give the impression of a man overawed by the home side, who are strong favorites to make it eight wins from 10 contests this weekend.
“I think when you break it down to individual players and how everyone’s playing and has been playing, I think we’re pretty equal,” he said during an engaging news conference where his sheer joy of being part of the whole event again shone through with every answer.
”They have a lot of good players -- Graeme McDowell and I have had some good head-to-head battles and Sergio (Garcia) is a friend and always fun to play against.
“But I lost two matches to Poulter at Medinah, so I would love to play him again, try to get those points back. As an athlete you want that challenge.”
Unlike many of his team mates, Simpson made no secret of his desperation to avenge that defeat, when Europe came from 10-6 down on the final day.
“I remember that feeling Sunday afternoon...personally, I can’t play this week without thinking about the way it felt to lose,” he said.
Reed, 24, was spared that pain but also wants to get on course with Poulter having had “a real lot of fun” with him on previous meetings, albeit in much less pressurized surroundings.
“I was 6-0 in matchplay in NCAA so I hope to draw on that but all the guys and the coaches have told me to play my own game so that’s what I‘m going to try to do,” he said.
He has to change one important aspect, however, Justine, normally his caddie, has switched roles into “professional wife” this week, leaving her brother Kessler Karain to carry the bag.
Walker is a rookie of a different kind, making the team at the age of 35 after a long, slow climb to the top echelons of the game.
If he was nervous, or excited, or even really awake, it did not show during his 20 minutes in the spotlight as he dead-batted every enquiry in a style that would have made any Premier League footballer proud.
“I feel like I’ve been around a long time. I know this is a new event for me, but I’ve done a lot, so I don’t feel like a rookie,” said Walker who turned professional 13 years ago but is enjoying an Indian Summer by claiming all three of his PGA tour wins this season.
“I may look calm, but I‘m pretty fired up inside,” he insisted, without betraying the slightest hint of a spark,
“It’s an emotional week, I can already tell. I‘m sleeping really good and it’s only Thursday,” he added, to general bemusement all round.
Editing by Ed Osmond