Europe finished their practice session after 6pm local time in Philadelphia, a half hour earlier than scheduled. They had arrived here early as usual and with their own 24-man team squaring off against the US side on Friday and Saturday, they did not take advantage of the warm-up facilities in an attempt to be anesthetised before the match, with a slosh of 9-1/2 beers before they arrived being normal.
Europe had hoped the cooler temperatures and puttees would encourage Rory McIlroy and Sergio García, or the rested Ian Poulter, to come out a bit more often, but neither appeared to have spent any time on the practice putting green. Paul Casey was another who was on the wrong side of the regulation limit.
The good news for Europe was that there was sufficient depth in the team for them to take advantage of the absence of their talismanic captain, Thomas Bjorn, who revealed before his squad selection that his back problems had necessitated a five-day break from the Ryder Cup.
Europe say Thomas Bjorn’s injury has allowed them to field a fresh face at Hazeltine Read more
Bjorn has not played here before, but Chris Wood, a product of the Home Golf Club, said he felt he had what it took to replace the European captain. “I’m at that level now where I should be playing in these kind of events,” he said. “I probably only have one of two competitions left with my game left.
“It’s exciting. For a kid who just graduated from university, making this is not an option and you can’t even get tickets to play in a tournament at the Home Golf Club, so for this to come along it’s pretty exciting.”
The emergence of the young players at such a young age will seem like a distant memory by the time the US bring down the curtain on their Ryder Cup involvement at Hazeltine, perhaps in 15 days’ time. The only flavour of their rivalry will be played out on the slopes of the Hazeltine National course.
“The week will be interesting for me personally because I’ve been a little bit out of touch because I’ve been travelling back and forth,” Bjorn said. “I am not personally feeling like I will really enjoy this week. It will be interesting to see how some of the younger guys react, what they are going to be like. It will be a tough week for them. They have more experience than we have. The Europeans are pumped to have one last crack at them.”
Jamie Donaldson, meanwhile, voiced his frustration at the American swagger, which he sees as evidence that they think they are going to win easily. “The crowds have got a right to voice their opinion and I think that’s what they’re getting,” Donaldson said. “I think they feel like they are underdogs, there’s no question. We’re not going to lose here, I’ll tell you that. If you told me that on the opening tee I’d have been dead.
“But the Americans are performing as though they feel they are going to win. I know they have had some breaks, which may be a case of them starting to believe.
Jamie Donaldson hoping to add Ryder Cup experience to his relatively slender CV Read more
“I’ve been saying in all of our press conferences and speeches that nobody is going to be a hero here. All these guys on the other side haven’t had a chance to play a team event before. So it will be wide open.
“The Europeans have been a little bit the underdogs the last few Ryder Cups, but it is not true. The Ryder Cup is going to be tight. I think it is up to the players to decide that and that’s the only way to make it competitive.”