Pressure will be on when Ryder Cup tees off at Medinah
BY HERB GOULD email@example.com September 22, 2012 1:26AM
Jason Dufner is shown during first round of play in the Tour Championship golf tournament in Atlanta on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
At a glance
When: Tuesday-next Sunday.
Where: Medinah Country Club.
Tickets: Sold out.
Format: Four matches of fourballs (better ball) and foursomes (alternate shot) on Friday and Saturday; 12 singles matches on Sunday.
Points: Europe needs 14 points to retain the cup. The United States needs 141/2 points to win the cup.
Series: United States leads 25-11-2.
Captains: Jose Maria Olazabal (Europe), Davis Love III (United States).
European roster: Nicolas Colsaerts, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer, Paul Lawrie, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood.
U.S. roster: Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Steve Stricker, Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods.
Tale of the tape: The 24 players are among the top 35 in the world ranking. Europe has nine players who have combined to win 15 tournaments this year. The United States has 11 players who have combined to win 15 tournaments this year.
Key statistic: The United States doesn’t have a player with a winning Ryder Cup record. Europe has eight players with a winning Ryder Cup record.
Television: Friday, 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., ESPN. Saturday,
8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Ch. 5. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Ch. 5.
Updated: October 24, 2012 6:39AM
Are you ready for some intensity?
Ordinarily a soft-spoken sport in which players basically try to beat par, golf will put on shoulder pads this week.
At the Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club, teams from the United States and Europe will try to birdie each other into submission while huge galleries roar feverishly — and maybe even jeer or boo occasionally.
What’s on the line? Everything from personal reputations to national honor.
‘‘If I don’t prevail and play well, I’ve let 11 teammates down. I’ve let a [team] captain down. I’ve let a lot of PGA of America down. I feel like I’ve let my family down. It’s a lot of people and a lot of responsibility,’’ said two-time U.S. Open winner Curtis Strange, whose late swoon against Nick Faldo aided Europe’s come-from-behind victory in the 1995 Ryder Cup. ‘‘There’s a lot of pressure. It’s an atmosphere unlike any other in golf.’’
How Team USA’s four Ryder Cup rookies — Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker — and Team Europe first-timer Nicolas Colsaerts will react is one of the unknowns. But their experience, especially at major championships, will serve them well, said Paul Azinger, the captain of Team USA’s 2008 Ryder Cup-winning team.
‘‘These guys are all seasoned professionals,’’ Azinger said. ‘‘The pressure is enormous. It can be easily defeated, though. The way to get out of the pressure is to look at the fella you’re playing against and realize he’s as nervous as you. And make the decision not to let him celebrate at your expense.’’
Captain Davis Love III, who will be trying to guide Team USA to only its second victory in the last six Ryder Cups, has ordered a Medinah setup that’s designed to give the long-hitting Americans an advantage.
‘‘It’s going to look like a major,’’ Love said last week, ‘‘but it’s going to play probably easier than a major. That benefits our team. We’re a long-hitting, free-wheeling, fun-to-watch team. And I think it’s going to be fun to watch. You want to see birdies. You want to see excitement.’’
But Team Europe isn’t conceding anything.
‘‘I’ve yet to see a setup that favors one team or the other,” Lee Westwood said. ‘‘You can play on a field that’s 200 yards wide; it’s who holes the most putts.’’
Former Northwestern star Luke Donald, an Englishman who still lives in the Chicago area, hopes his local ties will translate into some rooters for Team Europe.
‘‘Being somewhat of a home event, I’ll hopefully have some support for the European side,’’ Donald said. ‘‘We’ll see how that goes.’’
Because Love and Team Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal submit their player lineups in a blind draw, it’s impossible to know whether Tiger Woods will square off against Rory McIlroy, who’s on one of the hottest streaks since Woods was dominating the world golf scene. But it would be welcomed.
‘‘I’d enjoy that,’’ McIlroy said. ‘‘But it’s about the team. It’s not about one guy playing another guy.’’
Greg Norman added to the intrigue this week by saying Woods is ‘‘really intimidated’’ by McIlroy.
‘‘It’s gotta be the hair,’’ Woods said, mentioning McIlroy’s boyish curls.
Turning serious, Woods — who has won two majors at Medinah, the 1999 and 2006 PGAs — said he never has been intimidated by another golfer.
‘‘No one the size of Ray Lewis is going to hit me coming over the middle,’’ Woods said. ‘‘This is a different kind of sport. We go out there, and we play our own game. And see where it falls at the end of the day.’’
Except for maybe this week at Medinah.