Clarke turns to rugby union great for Cup motivation

Tue Sep 27, 2016 3:36pm EDT
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) - As part of Europe captain Darren Clarke's emphasis on 'shoulder to shoulder' unity at this week's Ryder Cup, he has asked former Ireland rugby union great Paul O'Connell to address his team on Tuesday.

O'Connell, a lock who was capped 108 times by Ireland and played seven tests for the British and Irish Lions, is known for his inspirational talks and Clarke wanted him to speak to his players ahead of Friday's opening foursomes matches.

"Part of my whole thought process for this week is 'shoulder to shoulder', one team, one unit," Clarke told reporters on the first day of official practice at a sunny and windy Hazeltine.

"As you know, shoulder to shoulder with the rugby background that I have as well, it resonated with me. It was something that I pursued through my captaincy.

"There's no finer an example of 'shoulder to shoulder' than Paul O'Connell. He has legendary status, both at home and in terms of leading the British Lions who always play away from home."

O'Connell, who captained both Ireland and the British and Irish Lions before retiring from professional rugby in February this year, is his country's third most-capped player of all time.

"With us being away from home, he was my choice to come and address the team this evening," said Clarke, who is bidding this week to lead Europe to a fourth successive Ryder Cup victory, and their ninth in 11 editions.

Asked whether he would use NBC commentator Johnny Miller's assertion that this was a decidedly weak European team as extra motivation for his players, Clarke replied: "I don't need to. The guys have all seen everything that's been said.   Continued...

Sep 27, 2016; Chaska, MN, USA; Europe team captain Darren Clarke addresses the media during the captains press conference ahead of the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club.  John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports