You’re one of Colin Montgomerie’s vice-captains and the favorite to be captain in 2014 at Gleneagles. What would be your style?
I’m intrigued with team sports. I watch soccer and Gaelic football. I watched the World Cup. I am interested in the dynamics of teams. Not all 12 players in the Ryder Cup will have the same role. I’m interested in man-management, planning and tactics.
You’ve played in three Cups. Which tactics have worked?
Bernhard Langer telling us to sign as many autographs as possible at Detroit in 2004, in the heartland of America, to take down that hostility and edge off the home crowd.
What have you learned most from the captains you have played under? They are all legends.
Sam Torrance, Bernhard Langer, Woosie, Seve, Monty and Ollie. Sam was the one I learned the most from probably because he was my first captain. The big thing was his personal one-to-one chats.
How did he make you feel special?
He identified my role. I knew I wasn’t going to be one of the leading lights of the team, playing all five matches. I was going to play three, partnering Padraig Harrington in the foursomes the first two days and then playing in the singles. So I knew what to be prepared for. As it turned out, Harrington dropped himself from one of the games, so I ended up playing foursomes with Darren Clarke. It was like a chain. Everybody had a part in it. Mine wasn’t like Sergio, Monty and Westwood, who played all five matches.
You’ll always be remembered for holing the winning putt at the Belfry in 2002. What was that like?
I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Everybody thinks I jumped in the lake, but I was pushed. I was doing a BBC interview and was lifted up and thrown in the water.
Who were the ringleaders?
Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington. David Feherty gave me a ball marker for that week, and all I could think of as I was being carried to the water was not to lose it because I knew where I was going. I managed to secure it my back pocket.
Which American has had the most impact on you?
Jim Furyk has always impressed me with his integrity. I understand his passion for the Ryder Cup. I love all the American flags waving and the anthem and their fans wearing the Star and Stripes. It gives me goose bumps. It should be encouraged. It’s important we bring out the passion and pageantry. I still remember the roar when the crowd saw me in the European colors for the first time walking from the putting green down the path to the tee. This year will go right to the edge of hostility without crossing the line.
How much interaction is there between the teams?
Everybody’s on edge until the week is over. Then we have a great party on Sunday night. At the K Club in 06, Tom Lehman invited us to the U.S. team room for a drink. Mickelson was playing Tiger at table tennis, and we all gathered around to watch. We had a few drinks after an intense week.
Which players get the party going?
Lee Westwood is in a class of his own. He was compere at the Belfry, introducing the players and making them stand up. I remember Phil Mickelson standing on a table in the American team room in 2006. He was going to sing a song then just ended up doing that “ole, ole, ole, ole” chant he’d heard all week from the Irish. I wonder how many vuvuzelas will be at the Celtic Manor. You know there’ll be some somewhere.