It has finally arrived! Ryder Cup week and we are in Kildare for the first staging of our “Olympics” in Ireland. It seems so long ago that it was first announced that the Ryder Cup would be coming to Ireland and now it has finally arrived it is hard to believe. I have been trying my hardest to put this week to the back of my mind for the last couple of months but it hasn’t been easy. Everywhere I went people have wanted to talk to me about what it will be like to have the Ryder Cup in Ireland. This is definitely the most anticipated match of the four that I have been involved in, everyone from the players to the organizers and most importantly the spectators have been looking forward to this for a long time.
The Ryder Cup is a massive tournament in everyone’s eyes. There is no doubt that it is probably more important to us Europeans than the US team, but even still they always want to win. This year for Darren, Paul and myself it is even bigger than normal as it is being held in our country. We know that there will be huge support for us and there is nothing that we would like better than to win the cup here. I have done a number of interviews over the past weeks about what the Cup means to me and what it is like to play in it. It is hard to fully explain, but to date it is the most nervous and excited that I have been on a golf course. My first appearance was in Boston and I played the first day with Angel Jimenez. We hit the first tee shot and when I got to the ball and put my seven iron down behind it I couldn’t see the ball as I was so nervous. I fully believe that come Friday, and if I am lucky enough to be playing, that the feelings that I had that day in Boston will seem like nothing compared to how nervous I will be hitting my first shot here!!
This years Ryder Cup will be a fantastic affair as everyone is looking forward to it. I have no doubt that it will be very close. The Americans are coming into this one after two losses in a row and are the underdogs for the first time. This will help to spur them on and try even harder. For us we have the pressure of expectation, something that we have never had before. The great thing is that we know we will have huge support but know the Americans will be treated fairly by the crowds also.
This is a big week for us but the great thing is that it is not just about golf. We will do everything as a team this week; something that we never do normally. In our team room we have table tennis tables, juke boxes and plenty of other games to keep us all entertained. In fact the competition is almost as intense in this room as it is on the course; all this adds to the team feeling and brings a different element to a golf tournament. I wouldn’t want it every week but for this one week every two years it is great. I certainly wouldn’t want to miss it!
This week is a very different week with regard to practice; it is not like a normal tournament week. Normally I would play a couple of practice rounds to get to know a course and then spend my time working on certain areas of my game. In general I don’t play serious matches in practice but this week it is all about playing seriously. We play fourball and fouresome matches with different partners so as to see who will play with whom. This year I played my first practice round with Paul McGinley against Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood. We halved the overall match as Lee made an eagle on the last but we lost money!! The first day was just to get a feel for the course and get rid of the cob webs. The next two practice rounds we played were reduced to nine holes, as the weather was poor. For both of these I played with my partner from the last Ryder Cup, Monty. We played foursomes against Paul and Henrik Stenson and lost to an eagle on the last hole again and then in a fourball match we played against Robert Karlsson and Paul Casey, but this time I holed a bunker shot on our last hole to win. The practice was enjoyable as it is different but as the week wears on you just want to get going in the real thing.
The one thing that everyone has commented on has been the atmosphere on the course from the spectators, which has been fantastic. Considering what it has been like for the first three days it will be unbelievable come Friday morning.
This week is as much about the social side of it as it is about golf. The reason that we are all here is golf but we have a number of fun social events during the week. This week we had wine tasting and the gala ball, with Van Morrison playing. On top of this our wives got to go horse racing and to several other social events. In fact the practice days are quite busy as we generally have something on and so we can’t do the practice that you would like to.
The K Club was set up exceptionally well; probably as good as I have ever seen it. This is a great course for matchplay as there is so much that can go wrong. The last three holes here will cause a lot of pain by the end of the week. The 17th par five is one of the toughest holes on the course as the River Liffey is all down the left and in front of the green, and there are trees on right. On a good day it is on in two, but a lay up is much better play, but does depend on how the match is going!
The 18th is the signature hole of the K Club. Again it is a par five that is reachable in two but only if you get your drive away. The key to these holes is a good drive, and I believe that it is these three holes that will dictate the outcome of the event.
I have been paired with Monty for the opening fourball series; we are playing in the first match against Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk. If I can get myself to get into my target and stay focused then everything will be fine. I know one thing, the atmosphere will be unbelievable. I only hope that we can give everyone something to cheer about.
After years of waiting and building it up, the Ryder Cup has come and gone. It was definitely the best one that I have been involved in and the feedback I got from the players on both teams was that it was their best as well. From the first day of practice it was evident that this was going to be something special. The crowds turned out in force and were cheering both teams on over every shot, the cheering especially for the European team was amazing.
I was lucky enough to be picked with Monty in the opening fourball, we played the same position at the last Ryder Cup. This time we were paired against Tiger and Jim Furyk, I had anticipated a big reception for us but I couldn’t have imagined anything like the one that we got. The roar that went up when Monty and I arrived on the tee was unbelievable; it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Both Monty and I played nicely for the match but we just couldn’t hole a putt, we were behind all the way but made a come back starting on the 14th where Monty holed twenty foot putt for birdie. This got us to two down, then another birdie on the 16th where I hit the green in two got us to one down where we unfortunately we stayed to lose the match. It was disappointing but we just hadn’t holed enough putts.
As it turned out I played in all the matches, once with Monty, twice with Paul and once with Stenson and then my singles match. My points return was not what I would have hoped for; I managed one half with Paul on Friday afternoon and then lost the rest of my matches. Looking back on my matches I would have to say that I played nicely; infact I would have gladly taken the way I played before the tournament and expected to gain more points but it seemed that in most of my matches I came up against a hot player! But then that’s what the Ryder Cup is all about everyone wants to win so badly that they tend to play above themselves, for me I played well but just didn’t hole enough putts and that is ultimately the difference.
Before the week started I did an interview and was asked did I want to be the one to hole the winning putt and I said that I would have no problem in losing all my matches if it meant that the team won; well I didn’t quite lose them all but the team did win and that is all the matters. To be a member of the Ryder Cup team that won in Ireland is a dream come true.
I suppose the best part of winning is the celebration and where better to celebrate than in Ireland. By the time my singles match reached the 10th hole Europe had won the cup and we were playing for pride, unfortunately for me I came up against a player in Scot Verplank that was firing on all cylinders, which was emphasized by his hole in one on the 14th. When my match finished on the 15th all I wanted to do was get to the 18th to see Lee Westwood finish his match and to get involved in the celebrations. As always it was amazing, the champagne was flowing; even as a non drinker I couldn’t resist having some. After drowning Woosie with champagne we moved up stairs on to the balcony so we could see the crowd and thank them for their support. From here it was on to the closing ceremony and then we went to the tented village to the rest of the crowd. It was here that I got to live out one of my dreams, body surfing over the crowd!!!! In the end the partying went on until well into the Monday morning. All in all it was a great week! Thanks for dropping by and talk to you all soon... Padraig.