It started in January in Abu Dhabi. During the ALL-European Hero Cup, one of the first precursors of the Ryder Cup, Luke Donald put some messages. Three of Donald’s predecessors as European captain, Thomas Bjørn, José María Olazábal and Paul McGinley, gave impassioned speeches to the players. Olazábal focused on the spirit of Seve Ballesteros. Bjørn spoke about the importance of the traditions handed down by the old European teams. McGinley, whose captaincy was hailed by everyone who met him in 2014, carefully outlined what it takes to prevail against the United States. The players would have been fascinated by the Trio.
Donald is not the type to knock in the bathtub, to rush. There is no chance that he will go on a rampage in the dressing rooms of the Marco Simone Club outside Rome next week, shouting in the face of the European contingent. Still, there must be a subtle and coherent message to a team looking to reclaim the trophy after being embarrassed in Wisconsin two years ago.
What is the cause? What does it mean to represent Europe? The camaraderie that emerges in the European Ryder Cup camp is famous, which is fascinating when golfers play under a banner that means nothing to them for 103 out of 104 weeks, at least in theory. Americans, on the other hand, are permanent Americans.
“It impressed me the week before my match,” explains Nicolas Colsaerts, who played for Europe at the Miracle of Medina 2012 and is one of Donald’s vice-captains. “I had gone to Spain to prepare and I met Germans, French, Scandinavians and Spaniards who all told me that they supported me. It was like a revelation for me, you realize that the whole of Europe is behind you. Even beyond that, really; South Africans, Australians tend to support us. The 24-year-old handicapper from Germany, the Scratch player from the United Kingdom. The demographic she supports is much broader than I ever thought.
“You are coming to the opening ceremony. You see this flag with something that we didn’t really grow up with. Then you realize: “Wait. Every two years, 12 stupid guys like me sit in these chairs and watch this flag being hoisted, and that’s what we stand for. You are part of a small club. It reaches a deep level within you, nothing else comes close.”
Colsaerts is only half joking when he says that golfers from different countries in Europe do not tend to be friendly during the individual touring life. “Then you put on the jersey and everyone gets along by pure Magic.”