Ryder Cup Notebook: Americans Finding Plenty Of Incentive To Win

GLENEAGLES, Scotland — Nobody should be surprised that Rickie Fowler has had “USA” sculpted into his head by his hairdresser. The surprise might be that Keegan Bradley and Bubba Watson have not followed suit.
 
There was a time when Fowler was regarded as something of an unfulfilled talent — no longer. Finishing in the top five in every major this season was an incredible feat, and proof positive that he has arrived in the big time.
 
He has always had a good game, but he knew that it wasn’t good enough so he took himself off to see Butch Harmon, who has polished off the rough edges. Fowler has still only won twice, and on both occasions he beat Rory McIlroy. At 25, they are the same age, but the Northern Irishman has won four majors, while Fowler is still looking for his first.

In Fowler, however, Tom Watson has a player who is capable of leading from the front.

Not surprisingly, his haircut drew a mixed response from the British media. The stuffy Daily Telegraph described it as an exhibition of thuggish jingoism that could make the biennial event “nasty.” Whaaat?

The paper used Fowler’s haircut to draw conclusions about the fiery intentions of the entire American squad, especially Tom Watson, who was singled out as “the gentleman golfer, embodying the virtues of grace, humility and understatement,” but pointed to his acceptance of Fowler’s new hairdo as evidence that Watson has changed from that noble persona. What utter tosh!

For sure, Watson would never have sported such a hairstyle in his prime — can you imagine how Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino would have reacted? But at the end of the day, it’s a haircut. That’s all. Just a haircut. And Lee Westwood was one of the first from the European team to wander up to Fowler on the practice ground, remove his hat and stroke his hair.

He then said: “I know I’ve got a big head, but I am not sure that I could get the word ‘Europe’ to fit.”

In years to come, Fowler may well look back and wonder if it was the most sensible thing he ever did. On the other hand, with one simple gesture, he has proved to his captain, his teammates and his country that he cares. Passionately.


Americans Spellbound At Spelling Errors

Attention to detail is everything. Tom Watson and Paul McGinley will have left no stone unturned while looking for something that just might give them an edge.

For McGinley it might have been Alex Ferguson talking to his players. For Watson, it could have been the address to his team from the war veterans who lost limbs.

Ah yes. Attention to detail…

When the players arrive at the practice ground at Gleneagles, each one has an area allocated to him. It is indicated by a small notice board, upon which is the name of the player.

You would think it would be pretty easy to get that right, wouldn’t you? After all, there aren’t too many tongue-twisting names on either side, are there? You could see that they might have to take a little extra care with Victor Dubuisson. And you definitely wouldn’t want to make a fool of yourself by being the person responsible for “Rory MacIlroy” or “Graham MacDowell.” Not to worry, Dubuisson, McIlroy and McDowell were all present and correct. And so was Graeme.

We don’t want to labor the point too much here, but think about all 24 players for a moment and then come up with the man whose name that nobody could possibly get wrong. Or so you would think.

It has to be Jimmy Walker, right? Wrong! The Ryder Cup rookie who is one of the most impressive players on the planet right now wandered up to his allocated space and did a double take. “Jiimmy Walker.” There is something particularly comical about this. In Scotland, there are a LOT of men called Jimmy, and throughout this week, Walker will hear an awful lot of one of the Scots’ favorite greetings: “Hey, see you Jimmy…”

We are not finished yet. Name the best young golfer in the world under the age of 23. It’s a no-brainer. Jordan Spieth. Or, as the 21-year-old discovered upon arriving at the practice ground, Jordan SPEITH.

They were two innocent, but very stupid mistakes and you can be sure that they will simply serve only to motivate the American team still further.


Matt Kuchar’s Caddie Returns After Death Of Wife

Two years ago, the European team dedicated its improbable victory to the late Seve Ballesteros. Indeed, the memory of Seve proved all too much for Jose Maria Olazabal, who formed such a formidable Ryder Cup partnership with his fellow Spaniard. Olazabal was moved to tears on more than one occasion after his men had battled back to win.

And the shadows of two people who are no longer with us also loom large over this year’s event.

Not one person who turns up at Gleneagles can fail to be moved by the plight of Lance Bennett. Most people will never have heard of Bennett, although plenty of golf fans will recognize him. He is Matt Kuchar’s caddie and, like most good bagmen, he stays out of the limelight, happy to let his employer make all the headlines.

But all thoughts are with Bennett this week after the tragic death last month of his wife, Angela. In any circumstances, losing your partner is bad enough, but Angela was in apparently good health, and her death stunned Bennett and everybody who knew the couple. That included Kuchar, who counts Bennett as a friend.

It was a surprise when Bennett, having consulted friends and family, told Kuchar that he wanted to return to work at the Ryder Cup. He did not fly to Scotland with the rest of the team but made his own arrangements and was at Gleneagles early.

“He and a couple of guys that came early greeted us as we arrived at the front of the hotel,” Kuchar said. “I mean, everybody one after one kind of went up, gave him a big hug, got to spend some time with him. I think most guys are happy to see him back to some sort of normality. I think everybody has felt so bad for his situation. To now have him back, it’s kind of great to have him back as part of the family.

Bennett himself said: “This is hard for me to talk about. I’m doing OK. I’ve had a lot of support and a lot of love and outreach from every corner of the golf community. It’s been absolutely amazing.

“I think if it were a regular event, I probably wouldn’t have done it but I think this event is just really special. I think it was good for me to come back.”

Given the team bonding at the Ryder Cup, Kuchar believes Bennett’s presence will turn out to be a helpful part of his healing process. And, of course, it gives the U.S. another incentive to win.

In 2006 at the K Club in County Kildare, Darren Clarke played a key role in Europe’s victory while still coming to terms with the death of his wife, Heather.

The European team, meanwhile, will be paying their own tributes to Bob Torrance, the legendary coach who died during the Open Championship. Torrance, whose son, Sam, is a vice-captain, touched the hearts of many people. Among others, he coached Paul McGinley, the European captain, and Padraig Harrington, who is another vice-captain.

Many members of the European team sought advice from Torrance. He was content to live up to his reputation as being a gruff Scot. In reality, he was anything but. Anybody who came across Torrance had their lives enriched by the experience. He was a man with a great sense of perspective and always told his charges: “Remember, these are the best times of your life.” It’s a thought many would do well to take to heart.

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Related Links: U.S. Ryder Cup Team | European Squad

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