NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Ryder Cup often produces magical golf, team captains Davis Love III and Darren Clarke concur, but for 20 years it has mainly been European players wielding the magic wand.
“It’s just special, isn’t it,” Europe captain Clarke told Reuters in promoting on behalf of sponsors Standard Life Investments this year’s competition to be played at Minnesota’s Hazeltine course from Sept 30-Oct 2.
“When you consider how much pressure the guys are under, going out there and playing some of the golf they play, it really is phenomenal, just sensational. We’ve seen ridiculous shots being hit, putts holed from everywhere and it’s amazing.”
U.S. captain Love, sitting across from the Northern Irishman with the gleaming gold Cup on a table between them in a hotel suite, said: ”It’s just amazing how guys step up.
“We saw a different Payne Stewart, a different David Duval when the Ryder Cup matches came around,” added Love, summoning heroes of the past. “Their passion, their energy came out a little bit more. It’s what makes the Ryder Cup special.”
Just as amazing is how the once mighty U.S. team, which dominated the biennial match play competition that began in 1927 with a 21-3-1 record through the 1983 event, has virtually vanished from the winner’s list.
Europe have won three in a row, six of the last seven and eight of the previous 10, despite the 12-man sides always appearing to be fairly evenly matched.
Clarke said Europe’s players had found the right attitude.
”I think the Europeans are more relaxed, more freed up and it’s easy to do that when you’re on a winning run. It’s tough to do that when you’re on a losing run.
“Davis’ challenge is to get his guys to relax and play the type of golf that we know they can and it will be even more of an exciting event than it already is.”
Love was at the helm the last time the U.S. hosted the competition four years ago outside Chicago in what came to be known, depending on one’s perspective, as The Miracle at Medinah or the Meltdown at Medinah.
The Americans took a four-point lead into Sunday’s 12 concluding singles matches but left Illinois as losers.
“I learned a lot from 2012,” said Love.
”As a group we have to sit down and talk about how we’re under a lot of pressure. We’ve lost the last three Ryder Cups. We need to win this thing, so let’s be honest about it.
“How are we going to prepare for that? We need to be ready for the onslaught of pressure.”
While Clarke insisted the slate starts clean at Hazeltine and “hopefully I won’t get in the way of (my players) and they keep on doing the same sort of thing”, Love said it was important to look back on Medinah.
”I’ve taken a lot away from that. We can win the first two days,“ Love said. ”We’ve always seemed to struggle in fourballs and foursomes at times. We need to get better at that and we did get better at that.
”Paul Azinger (the last winning U.S. captain in 2008) showed us a system ... got us through the first two days but we need to have a good three days in a row.
“When we’re ahead, we need to put our foot on the gas. This time I‘m going to have different speeches prepared for them on Friday night and Saturday night.”
Love did not elaborate on the strategic differences but seemed to have something up his sleeve.
”We didn’t plan on being four ahead,“ he recalled about Medinah. ”We didn’t think that far ahead. We didn’t realize that we could influence Sunday as much as we could by saying the right things, doing the right things on Saturday night.
“We’ve learned from analyzing that some things happen on Saturday that can influence momentum on Sunday. We’re going to be prepared for that.”
Clarke said he thought the European edge might have sprung from a simple motivation.
”Maybe from the European point of view, we’re perceived as the underdogs,“ he said. ”We have been sometimes in the past, but there shouldn’t really be an underdog tag, the teams are so equally matched.
“It’s Europe coming over and taking on the might of America, that’s the way that the guys look at it,” the Northern Irishman added.
“It’s almost like they’ve got a point to prove. Certainly of late in a lot of the recent Ryder Cups they’ve actually done that.”
Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes