THE 39th Ryder Cup set to tee off today at Medinah with spectators being warned: “This is a sporting event – not a war.”
European captain Jose Maria Olazabal delivered that message at the opening ceremony and defended doing so in his press conference afterwards.
“We know Chicago is going to be loud, just as it is when we play tournaments in Boston and New Jersey,” said the Spaniard.
“Chicago is a great sporting city. They love the game of golf and I am pretty sure they are going to be very strong in their support of the US team.
“But I felt I needed to make my point clear – this is not a war, this is a sport.”
Olazbal was pleased that his American counterpart, Davis Love III, also asked fans to be respectful over the next three days.
“We are going to be trying to beat each other, obviously,” he added. “But the spirit of the Ryder Cup is what it is. We are here to compete for the Samuel Ryder Cup in a friendly way. There is no need for any harsh words or bad comments at the wrong time.
“That’s why I felt I needed to make that point.”
Olazabal was quick to shoot down a suggestion that his players would be resorting to gamesmanship in the match, having been asked if he had learned that from playing in the Ryder Cup with Seve Ballesteros.
“Have you ever seen me showing any kind of gamesmanship on the golf course?” he asked, hinting as though he’d been offended that anyone could question his renowned sporting integrity.
“So he didn’t teach well, did he? That was not his idea as it is not the spirit of the Ryder Cup at all.
“It’s true that he sometimes had certain tics, but he never did it on purpose. If anyone thinks that way, then sorry. But I don’t think I’ve shown any gamesmanship in my career.”
When Ballesteros captained Europe in the event at Valderrama in 1997, he drove about the course like a madman in his buggy.
Asked if that would be his style as well, Olazabal poked fun at himself by recalling a speeding fine he incurred during a visit to America earlier in the year.
“I have to be careful how I drive the buggy – I don’t want to get fined like I did when I was going from Augusta to Hilton Head,” he joked.
“Seve was very close to the players. I’m going to be close to them as well, but just so they know I’m there if they want me for something. I’m not going to impose myself on telling the player what shot he has to hit. They know their game.”
Using world No. 1 Rory McIlroy as an example, the European skipper added: “He will hit an 8-iron from 200 yards and I will be hitting a 3-iron.
“So he’s got a different picture of the ball flying towards the green. I’m going to be close to the guys, but I won’t be imposing myself.”
McIlroy and Graeme McDowell were due to set out in today’s opening foursome (1.20pm out time) against veteran Jim Furyk and rookie Brandt Snedeker.
Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia were next up against Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, another of the newcomers in the home ranks.
Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari were third out against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, with Justin Rose and Ian Poulter bringing up the rear against Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker. It meant Paul Lawrie, who hit the opening shot on his debut at Brookline in 1999, had to wait to see if he’d be introduced in the afternoon fourballs.
Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer and Nicolas Colaerts were in the same boat, as were two current major champions – Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson – in the American team.
“We are not hiding anything. We are not second guessing here. We are trying to win points – period. That’s it,” said Olazabal. “We have to go for it. We have to make a bunch of birdies. So I have sent my best players out there to see if they can win points.”