Photo courtesy of Hailey Garrett/PGA of America

Europe’s Sergio Garcia is appearing in his 10th Ryder Cup, and already stands as the all-time points leader in the event (251⁄2 points).

At Paris three years ago, Garcia inched past Nick Faldo, an 11-time Ryder Cup participant for Europe, with his victory over Rickie Fowler in the singles session at Le Golf National.

Garcia, 41, says he has come into Ryder Cups at times when he feels he is in great form and at other times, not in the best of form. But something about the event always seems to inspire him to raise his game.

At Whistling Straits on Tuesday, Garcia said it’s as if a switch flips on, and it begins the moment he knows he will be part of the team. He said he often will wake up in the morning next to his wife, Angela, and declare himself one day closer to teeing it up in another Ryder Cup.

“Obviously the excitement that I get when I come into the Ryder Cups, it’s something that I can’t describe,” Garcia said. “I can’t tell you what happens, but it happens. It’s just love for it.

“It just comes down to challenging yourself every match. It’s fun to me, the energy that you feel around the world, not only with the crowds but with your partners and with your teammates and stuff like that. It’s something very unique, and it seems to drive me to a higher level, I guess.”

HOME RUN HITTER: Bryson DeChambeau is known for his prodigious length, and with recent speed work, hopes to surpass 200-mph ball speed at this week’s Ryder Cup. He led the PGA Tour in driving distance in 2020-21 with an average drive of 323.7 yards.

DeChambeau, playing in his second Ryder Cup for Team USA, said he doesn’t know how many drivers he will end up hitting each round (it will be wind-dependent), but found in two days of practice last week that there are holes where he really could gain a huge advantage.

Take the 603-yard fifth hole at the Straits course, for instance, a par 5 that doglegs to the right, between two bodies of water. The safe play is left, leaving players with fairway metals or hybrids, at best, to the green. DeChambeau discovered he can take a far more aggressive line down the right side of the hole, over water, which in one round last week left him only 120 yards into the green for his second shot.

He also said despite the general thinking that his go-for-broke style is better suited for four-ball play than foursomes, DeChambeau said he is at ease playing in either format.

“I could comfortably say that I have no issue playing either format,” said DeChambeau, who was 0-2 in two foursomes matches in Paris three years ago. “I think best-ball (four-ball) has its benefits to my style of play, and alternate-shot, with the right person, can be pretty deadly.”

ROAD GAME READY: Europe’s Lee Westwood is playing in his 11th Ryder Cup, tying Nick Faldo for most appearances among European players. (As an aside, Westwood actually partnered with Faldo in his rookie appearance in 1997, in Spain.)

Westwood has plenty of experience playing in home Ryder Cups as well as playing on the road, and is plenty prepared for a week ahead at Whistling Straits in which the big crowds will be highly weighed toward the home squad.

“You just have to deal with it,” Westwood said. “I’d much rather play in front of a crowd that’s solely U.S. fans than no crowd at all, like we experienced last year. Playing professional golf is all about playing in front of people and entertaining people, and the majority of the crowds are great fun. I’ve played in them in the U.S. most of this year, and I get great feedback from the fans. They’ve watched me grow up out here, and they really feel like I guess they know me now.

“The U.S. fans are generally very good with me and give me a lot of support. Probably be different this week, but I understand that. This is different this week. This is more like a football game, or a basketball game, where people have picked a side and you cheer for your side, which I enjoy it. That’s what the Ryder Cup is all about.”

TRUE ROOKIE: Much will be made about the youthfulness of this week’s U.S. Team, which is the youngest team age-wise (29 years, 159 days) since the very first Ryder Cup side from 1927.

The U.S. has six rookies, its most since the 2008 team that won at Valhalla, in Kentucky. But among the “rookies” are a two-time major champion (Collin Morikawa), an Olympic gold medalist (Xander Schauffele, a 10-year PGA Tour veteran and two-time winner this
season (Harris English) and the FedEx Cup champion (Patrick Cantlay).

Scottie Scheffler, who is 25 and still is seeking his first victory on the PGA Tour, acknowledges that he is a little different from the others in his rookie class.

“I would say I am the only ‘true’ rookie,” Scheffler said Tuesday at Whistling Straits. “…but I don’t feel like that. I feel like I belong on this team. The guys have done a really great job of making me feel like I belong.

“I feel like if I showed up on this team and either didn’t have friends or the guys weren’t being nice to me it would feel a lot different, but I feel like it’s been a seamless transition for me being on this team. The guys have been nothing but kind. I think also the top six or the guys who knew they were going to be on the team had a lot of input in the selection process. … So for me, just having their kind of vote of confidence for me is fantastic.”

Scheffler was part of a practice-round pairing on Tuesday that included fellow Texans Bryson DeChambeau and Jordan Spieth and 2017 PGA champion Justin Thomas. Scheffler is the fourth player to make an American Ryder Cup team before earning his first PGA Tour victory, joining Tommy Aaron (1969), Rickie Fowler (2010) and Jeff Overton (2010). This week, he can accomplish something the other three did not: Finish the week with a
winning record.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.