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Ryder Cup Veteran Sergio Garcia hasn't lost his striking passion

By Andy Farrell

If Ian Poulter has stolen Sergio Garcia's thunder as the talisman of Europe's Ryder Cup team then the Spaniard does not mind one bit. It hardly means he is less passionate about an event he first played in as an exuberant teenager 15 years ago.

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Back in 1999, Poulter was still making his way up the lower reaches of the game. Garcia was 19 and played in his first Ryder Cup within months of turning professional. He skipped around Brookline in the company of the Swede Jesper Parnevik.

Paul McGinley, this week's home captain, first played in the 2002 match and has this fond memory of Garcia in the team room: "What I loved and what was so great about Sergio, I've always had this picture of him and always will: he played 36 holes and he'd come back, and there was one TV in the team room down in the corner, with a few seats around it.

"He would go up to the far end where the buffet was, he would get his food, he'd go down and he'd sit with his food on his lap and he'd watch the highlights.

"He'd just gone 36 holes and he'd watch the highlights. And every time he would come on, he'd stand up and he'd tell everybody to watch the TV. 'Watch this shot I'm about to play, watch this, watch what I did, watch what the American did after I did this.' There was such fun, exuberance, exhilaration just to be there.

"The guy spent nine hours on the course and there he was reliving it all, engrossed in the highlights. He was so raw back then. That innocence is something that will always remain with me."

Garcia was not just energetic, he generated points at a vast rate.

He won 14 of his first 19 matches, was unbeaten at Oakland Hills in 2004 and won his first eight foursomes, an unheard of sequence.

It could not last. He did not win a match in 2008 and missed the 2010 contest, acting as a vice-captain instead. He returned at Medinah and while Poulter was going ballistic on the Saturday afternoon, Garcia and Luke Donald also produced a vital point and on the Sunday Garcia won the last two holes against Jim Furyk to add another crucial win.

Garcia, now 34, is making his seventh appearance and only Lee Westwood has more experience. McGinley said: "He still has that exuberance but he is a senior player now. He's been around a long time and he's a hell of a player."

As for Poulter getting all the Ryder Cup love in the build-up to this year's match, Garcia brushed off any suggestion of being overlooked. "This is not a competition," he said. "We all know what we bring to the team. We are all fighting for each other.

"Everybody has their own way of doing it and we love the way Poults does it."

Of course, it was the late Seve Ballesteros who, along with Tony Jacklin as the captain in the 1980s, ignited Europe's success in the Ryder Cup and his picture is the last players will see as they exit the tunnel into the first tee area.

He also featured in some videos put together by captain McGinley to inspire his team for the weekend ahead.

"It definitely still gives you the chills when you watch him and listen to him talk, even though he has been gone a couple of years now," Garcia said.

"Somebody who brought so much to the game, not only in the Ryder Cup but European golf, he'll always be in our minds."

Ryder Cup: Further Reading

Graeme McDowell admits partnership with Rory McIlroy has run its course

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are from the same country, but Rory's on a different planet now

Graeme McDowell: It's simple, Rory McIlroy has just got too big for me

Why Rory McIlroy no longer feels like my little brother says Graeme McDowell as pair tee up for Ryder Cup

Europe Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley is a man driven to succeed

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