It may have been “Hostile at Hazeltine” for the 41st Ryder Cup but the “Battle at Brookline” was even more intimidating for the Europeans, according to Paul Lawrie.
As the behaviour by some of the US fans in Minnesota continued to be a big talking point, Lawrie recalled his debut in the event in Boston in 1999, where Payne Stewart stepped in to remonstrate with the crowd as they gave Colin Montgomerie a hard time in the singles.
“I don’t think this was as bad,” said the Scot of an event in which at least one fan was ejected for aiming verbal abuse at Rory McIlroy and fans being warned on Sunday that a “zero tolerance” policy was in place in terms of behaviour on the course. “Sunday at Brookline was as bad as I’ve known, that was horrendous that year,” said Lawrie.
In his role as one of Darren Clarke’s vice-captains, Lawrie spent a fair bit of the event out with the matches that involved Sergio Garcia, another of the European players targeted by home fans.
“I definitely know I haven’t won a major,” joked the Spaniard of his failure to land one of the game’s biggest titles having been the main source of the flak thrown at him from outside the ropes.
“I was out with Sergio a lot this week and Tom Lehman (one of Davis Love’s vice-captains) was there and in the crowd as much as I was in the crowd,” added Lawrie.
“You have to take your hats off to their side for doing the job they did trying to stop it.
“It was a very few fans and it just so happens that the nature of it, the one or two really bad comments are going to get the headlines. But, on the whole, I think it’s been pretty good.”
Along with everyone else in the camp, both Lawrie and Sam Torrance were disappointed to see Europe come up short in a bid to claim an unprecedented fourth straight success in the event as they lost 17-11.
But the duo wholeheartedly agreed that the defeat had not been down to poor captaincy from Clarke, something that Nick Faldo had been accused of following Europe’s last defeat at Valhalla in 2008.
“From start to finish, you can’t pick out anything that he did wrong,” insisted Lawrie. “People will second guess, that’s what nature is, but he was calm, calculated, he did everything we thought he should do.
“I thought both of his speeches were different class. His public speaking was really good. There’s not much you can do, everyone’s really disappointed for him because we wanted him to be a winning Ryder Cup captain and he’s not.”
Reflecting on his 12th Ryder Cup, 2002 winning captain Torrance added: “This is the best team room I’ve ever seen.”
With Clarke having immediately ruled himself out of a second bite at the cherry, the attention now turns to who will lead Europe in France in two years’ time. It’s believed that Thomas Bjorn, a vice-captain four times and the Tour’s tournament committee chairman, is believed to be the favourite, with Lawrie and Irishman Padraig Harrington others likely to be in the frame.
“I’d like to play once more and I can’t see why I can’t,” said Lawrie. “I need to get a little bit fitter, but I fancy playing one more and as long as that thought is in my head I’m just going to keep going.
“Whoever gets it (the captaincy) is a lucky boy because there’s a lot of great talent in that team. Thomas Pieters alone. I was out a lot for Rafa Cabrera Bello and what a player he’s became. He stood up to be counted this week and there’s a lot to be said for that.”