European players leading the way in warmer, fuzzier Ryder Cup

Thursday September 27th, 2012
Luke Donald and the Europeans have won four of the last five Ryder Cups.
Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the European team at this week's Ryder Cup is that they are a group of smart and likable personalities.

The War By The Shore in 1991 was the height of Ryder Cup animosity, but the world has changed in inconceivable ways over two decades. Golf and the Ryder Cup have evolved, too. The Us vs. Them mentality is mostly gone, and this is a friendlier, more sporting atmosphere.

It starts with the Europeans, including Rory McIlroy, being fun, gregarious types who are definitely not full of themselves. They play more often on the PGA Tour these days, so we know them better and like them.

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Don't believe me? Here are some examples from Wednesday morning's friendly meetings with the press at Medinah:

Luke Donald, asked what he'd be doing with his art theory degree from Northwestern if he wasn't playing professional golf: "How to tell? I'd probably be living in a different suburb than I am now."

Donald on winning some money yesterday in a match against Ian Poulter: "It's always pleasing when you're able to take cash out of Poulter's wallet. A few moths fell out at the same time. It was fun."

Donald on why he and Westwood make a good Ryder Cup pairing: "Lee hits it long and straight. His long game, my short game -- if you put the two together, we could have a few more than zero majors between us."

Ian Poulter on his Ryder Cup success: "I just love this event more than any other event in the world. I get very excited to play and very proud to put this shirt on and have that crest on my chest. I was transfixed in '93 watching my first Ryder Cup, and things haven't changed since."

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Poulter came the closest to stirring the pot when he was asked if he could imagine a day when the Ryder Cup lost its edge: "It means too much to us for it ever to lose that edge. This event is unique. I mean, you know, I hate to say we don't get on for three days, but there is that divide, and it's not that we don't like each other. We are all good friends, both sides of the pond. But there's something about Ryder Cup which kind of intrigues me, how you can be great mates with somebody, but, boy, do you want to kill them in Ryder Cup."

Poulter on whether Rory McIlroy will be targeted by the Americans: "There are 12 bulls-eyes on our backs this week. You can't single out any one player. We have been dominant in the Ryder Cup over the last 10 years, and they really want to turn that around."

Westwood answering a lengthy five-sentence question about home-course advantage: "It was such a long question. I can't remember most of it, and you answered most of it so well."

Westwood on hitting Friday morning's first tee shot: "I'd prefer a lie-in, really, and play last."

Westwood on changing coaches: "At the end of the day, I'm a business. You want businesses to perform well, and I needed a change to start performing well again. Nothing personal. Myself and Pete Cowen still get on really well. We had a beer the other night. If you're an adult and grown up, you understand these things."

McIlroy on how playing in the last Ryder Cup changed his view of the event: "It opened my eyes. It's different, being part of a team, playing for 11 teammates, your captain, your country, your continent. It's a big deal. I sort of realized that in Wales."

McIlroy, when asked about Poulter's "kill them" comment: "I think kill is a little strong. I'd like to beat them."

McIlroy on the pressure of being No. 1 this week: "I'm not the No.1 player in the world this week; I'm one person on a 12-man team and that's it. It's a team effort and I'm just part of that."

Nicholas Colsaerts on reaction in Belgium: "Well, golf is pretty small back home. It's a small community. It's almost like everybody knows each other in Belguim. Since the announcement of my captain's pick, we got covered in a lot of newspapers and some TV channels back home bought the rights for television."

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Colsaerts on his Ryder Cup memories: "The first one I watched, I was 9. I was watching Kiawah Island and even though I was only 9, I felt that it was a pretty big thing. After growing up, I realized I wanted to be part of that. There was only one guy that I really liked when I was young. It was Fred Couples. He always seemed to be a cool cat, the way he walks and plays. I loved the laziness about him. Funny enough, I think I walk kind of the same way."

Sergio Garcia on why his foursomes record is so good: "It's quite simple. I had great partners. They carried me home."

Garcia, asked to compare his game now to his last Ryder Cup appearance in 2008, when he lost to Anthony Kim: "Two thousand eight? I barely remember. Alzheimer's ... I got sick the week before, I was on antibiotics, my energy levels weren't great. This year, I feel good."

Garcia on whether having four of the world's top five ranked players on the European team will make a difference: "I hope so."

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