From feeling sick and overwhelmed at the first tee to watching on helpless as a team captain, former Ryder Cup players Paul Broadhurst, Ian Woosnam, Barry Lane and Ronan Rafferty reflect on their experiences of the classic trans-Atlantic golf tournament, and give their predictions for Europe's fortunes in this year's clash.
It’s one of the biggest events on the sporting calendar, and from 30 September to 2 October the eagerly-anticipated biannual event will see Darren Clarke’s European upstarts head across the pond to take on Team USA at Hazeltine National Golf Club, Minnesota.
At the recent Prostate Cancer UK Scottish Senior Open, we caught up with four men who have represented Europe – Paul Broadhurst, Ian Woosnam, Barry Lane and Ronan Rafferty – to gauge their predictions, their thoughts about playing on enemy territory, and what the competition means to them.
Paul Broadhurst: "Our team is going to have an unfamiliar look to it. There are quite a few rookies, but when I played I was a rookie. I guess the rookies of today have a bit more experience than I did then. They play in the World events and the Majors and in America a lot more than I used to, so I don’t think it will be a problem for them adjusting to the Ryder Cup format. I’m hopeful, although our team will be a bit strange looking on paper."
Barry Lane: "I think this year the Americans will be favourites. We’ve won the last three times but I think that they're going to be favourites looking at the world rankings. But you never know. The camaraderie with the Europeans is always fantastic."
Ronan Rafferty: "Over the last Ryder Cups, it’s been mainly our rookies, youngsters and new players who are the ones who've come to the forefront. So maybe we shouldn’t be looking at them thinking we always need a chaperone for a young player. These guys that are coming out now are keen to win and keen to play. If you've made the team and are in the top 10 of the Order of Merit or the World Points ranking, you're a good player in your own right. You don’t need any help."
PB: "They will have their home crowd behind them. But look at Medinah [in 2012, when the Europeans staged perhaps the greatest comeback in event history from 10-6 down]. Strange things happen. The crowd can soon turn and if the Europeans can get up early, then we can quieten them. Then we would have every chance."
BL: "Obviously the supporters in American will be very partisan, as they are in Europe. They get very loud over there. The guys have played out there though, so they know what it’s going to be like. The team behind the team is fantastic. You're only out there for a few hours playing golf – the rest of the event around the players’ room and the guys behind it is fantastic. Also they have five vice-captains and all have played in the Ryder Cup. They're all great players and have been great players, so it’s a home-from-home really. They'll be OK."
RR: "All the European team plays in America. They're not fazed about standing up in front of a gallery. They all play the Majors and the World Golf Championships, and even a regular PGA tour event has hundreds-of-thousands of people coming out to watch. So no one will be afraid to stand up in front of a big gallery like we were 20-odd years ago."
Ian Woosnan: "I’ve been on both sides. As a player it’s exciting. You're out there, and you can do something about it. When you’re a captain, you can’t really do much. You just have to watch and hope you’ve got it all right. It’s a great event and to see it grow into what it has over the last 30-odd years is unbelievable."
PB: "Probably my worst memory was having to sit out the first three sets of matches and watch on as the Americans were building a lead in 1991. My best memory was playing with Ian Woosnam in the four-ball and winning, then picking up a point in the singles against Mark O’Meara. We actually lost the event, but from a personal point of view I was proud of the way I played and contributed two points."
BL: "It’s an absolutely unbelievable event. It's amazing how, when you walk on to the first tee and are feeling sick, you can’t get the ball on the tee because your hands are shaking so much. It’s an unbelievable spectacle and I was very happy, privileged and proud to be a part of a Ryder Cup and play."
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