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Team Europe has upper hand in huffing and puffing at Ryder Cup

USA's Steve Stricker left right Matt Kuchar DustJohnsTiger Woods make their way up ninth hole during practice round Ryder Cup

USA's Steve Stricker, left to right, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods make their way up the ninth hole during a practice round at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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Updated: October 29, 2012 6:38AM



Apparently, the whole golf thing at the Ryder Cup is a ruse, a pretext for a bloodbath the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Normandy. I fear for our safety.

On Wednesday, Team Europe’s Ian Poulter admitted to homicidal tendencies.

‘‘There’s something about the Ryder Cup which kind of intrigues me — how you can be great mates with somebody, but, boy, do you want to kill them in the Ryder Cup,’’ he said.

 If this were the ranting of a lone golf enthusiast, I’d let it go. But a reporter asked Europe’s Rory McIlroy if the Ryder Cup is the most ‘‘gladiatorial’’ that the sport can be. Not if you’ve ever been overclubbed.

There is nothing about golf that resembles or will ever resemble a gladiator fight. The farthest reaches of the imagination might have two warring pro golfers throwing money clips at each other, but that’s about it. Does anyone want to think of Jim Furyk oiled up like Russell Crowe in ‘‘Gladiator’’? No.

I get it: These two teams aren’t supposed to like each other during three days of competition at Medinah Country Club. There’s a lot on the line — national pride for Team USA and continental pride for Team Europe. Players from both sides of the pond have really embraced the togetherness aspect of the Ryder Cup. Playing for yourself isn’t as thrilling as doing it for your team.

But it already has gotten carried away, and the real golf doesn’t even start until Friday. By the time Team Europe’s Lee Westwood met the media Wednesday, I was sure he’d say, ‘‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’’ Instead, he said, ‘‘It’s a feeling of not wanting to let anyone down.’’

If we Americans are being honest, we’ll admit we haven’t matched the Europeans’ rah-rah approach to the Ryder Cup. Oh, we’ve tried. You’ll recall that some American team members wore ‘‘Desert Storm’’ camouflage caps at the 1991 edition and were rightly ripped for being overly nationalistic. But despite our dominance in the world golf rankings (currently, 15 of the top 25 are Americans), we’ve lost the Cup four of the last five times and six of the last eight.

‘‘I think we have been more of, as a team, team-team,’’ Poulter said. ‘‘What that means or how you can break that down, I don’t really know. It gets spoken about an awful lot.

‘‘I would say that we’re all very, very, very comfortable with each other in the team room as people, as personalities, and I think that’s been that tiny little edge factor.’’

Team USA players have been bonding this week over table tennis, which could be part of the problem. Pacifists play Ping-Pong, a statement that is both alliterative and perhaps even true. Might I suggest tribal paint? Too much?

‘‘This is not a war,’’ U.S. captain Davis Love III said. ‘‘It’s a golf match.’’

If he keeps that up, he’ll find himself in the trunk of a Mercedes for the duration of the event, courtesy of ‘‘the Chicago Way.’’

The objective for the European team will be to extinguish what will be a feverishly pro-U.S. crowd at Medinah. For the Americans, it will be to use birdies as fire accelerants. Both sides seem to think we Chicagoans are given to rowdiness. Who, us?

‘‘We are coming to Chicago, a place that’s going to be very vocal,’’ Poulter said. ‘‘It’s going to be intimidating, but it’s going to be brilliant. I couldn’t or wouldn’t want to be in any other situation this week. It fills you full of pride and passion to go out there.’’

The only people who love an audience as much as Poulter are theater majors.

‘‘[Fans] add to the excitement,’’ he said. ‘‘They add to the fun. And I love to draw the electricity that they give and the passion that they give. I think you should embrace that and use that to inspire you to hit good golf shots.’’

But how? How do you channel that energy and still keep your nerves and hands steady? You don’t want to grip a club as if it’s a chin-up bar. This isn’t a sport that rewards wild-emotion swings.

Then again, Poulter’s adrenaline has helped him to an 8-3-0 Ryder Cup record.

When told of Poulter’s ‘‘kill’’ comment, McIlroy laughed.

‘‘I think ‘kill’ is a little strong,’’ he said. ‘‘I’d like to beat them.’’

We might want to watch our backs anyway. Just in case.



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