Graeme McDowell: Europeans ready for a hostile Ryder Cup reception
Published 26/09/2012 | 05:23
Graeme McDowell has warned his European team-mates of the intimidating task they face when they begin their defence of the Ryder Cup.
The Northern Irishman, who so theatrically sealed the win at Celtic Manor two years ago, also rather bullishly revealed which eight he suspects will tee off the tournament for Jose Maria Olazabal's side on Friday.
Tiger Woods and US team-mate Jim Furyk have called on the Chicago crowd to give the American team an edge over the three-day contest and while McDowell concedes the partisan support will favour the home team, it is a challenge he is relishing.
"There's a world of difference between playing in front of your home fans and playing in front of the US fans," the Ulsterman said.
"Putts that drop in front of your home fans are like a bomb going off –and putts that go in this weekend will be like someone's got the silencer on. It's like a muted applause. I remember Valhalla [in Kentucky in 2008]. The 14th was a very big natural amphitheatre and one of the most intimidating holes as a European.
"You knew when somebody birdied – you could hear it reverberating around the course. There's something interesting about missing a putt and having the cheers go up. That's something we are not used to as golfers, but it's something you've got to accept this week and I'm looking forward to it.
"I think Davis [Love III, the American captain] wants birdies and eagles to get the crowd fizzed up."
Seven of Europe's 12 players have experienced an away match before, including 43-year-old Scot Paul Lawrie, who returns to the side 13 years after his debut in Boston.
Lawrie hit the opening shot of the match that week and there was the first indication yesterday that he will be involved in Friday morning action again. The 1999 Open champion was sent out for practice alongside McDowell, McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, while 2008 partners Justin Rose and Ian Poulter were with Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, the pairing which two years ago thrashed American top pair Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker 6&5.
That left Francesco Molinari, Peter Hanson and Martin Kaymer, all of whom were debutants at Celtic Manor, with Belgian newcomer Nicolas Colsaerts. McDowell hinted they may not enter the fray until the afternoon fourballs unless someone really shines in the three days of practice.
"The established partnerships are fairly obvious – myself and Rory, Poulter and Rose, Donald and Garcia, perhaps a Westwood and Lawrie," McDowell added.
"You can pretty much predict our first eight players Friday morning. You don't need me to tell you that. Will we be that predictable? Who knows?"
While McDowell had been very open about possible partnerships for the match, Olazabal said after watching the 12 out on the course: "I'm not going to talk about pairings, seriously.
"We have quite a lot of players that have done well in the past and then I've tried to mix a little bit of guys I believe can complement each other and who understand each other really well.
"That's why I put Paul Lawrie with the Northern Irish guys and Sergio because Sergio is a guy that gets close to everyone. He can play with anyone."
Whoever steps out for Europe on Friday morning for the first tee in Medinah will be carrying a bag decorated with the iconic silhouette of Seve Ballesteros, who died last year at the age of 54 after a long battle with cancer.
Ballesteros, who captained Europe to victory in his native Spain in 1997 after playing in the biennial contest eight times, famously formed a formidable partnership with Olazabal. And Rose, who won three of his four matches on his sole previous appearance in the defeat at Valhalla in 2008, has plenty of fond memories of Ballesteros to draw upon this week.
"I did get to know Seve well," Rose said. "He was one of the few guys when I was struggling on tour when I first turned pro to put his arm around me in a sense, more metaphorically, but just to give me some words of encouragement."
Ryder Cup corner
The European Seve bag
As well as wearing blue jumpers to honour Seve Ballesteros's memory during Sunday's singles the European bags will carry that trademark image of Seve punching the air.
Graeme McDowell has named his European pairings for Friday morning (of course, it's not actually up to him)...
G McDowell and R McIlroy
I Poulter and J Rose
L Donald and S Garcia
L Westwood and P Lawrie