Europe will play as one, even if arrival is disjointed
MEDINAH, Ill. –- The European team members who weren't already in the U.S. arrived Monday in Rockford, about 60 minutes northwest on Interstate 90.
Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts accompanied European captain Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain and vice captains Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland and Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain.
With five Europeans having played last week in the FedEx Cup finale at East Lake in Atlanta and others living in the U.S., the visiting team's arrival certainly is different from the days when all the players arrived together on the Concorde and made a grand entrance.
The fact that the European team didn’t fly over together is no disadvantage, Olazabal said.
“We have always been a close team,” Olazabal said Monday at Medinah. “And in that regard, we have been in touch through the phone, talking to the players, and they are going to be all there by the time I get to the hotel today."
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CADDIE PAIN: Bobby Brown, Dustin Johnson’s caddie, is still recovering from a back injury that forced him off the course on the 11th hole in Friday’s second round of the Tour Championship.
According to U.S. captain Davis Love III, Brown arrived on Sunday night and was tended with the assistance of Jeff Sluman and his wife, a doctor in the area.
If Brown can’t go, Love rattled off some options: his caddie, Jeff Weber, and Love's brother Mark, also an experienced looper. Should that fail?
“And even I offered to caddie for him," Love said.
It's doubtful that it would come to a coach-caddie, but it certainly would be a first in Ryder Cup history.
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MOVIEGOERS: Last year around this time, Fred Couples was getting ready to captain his second U.S. Presidents Cup team in Australia. On the Monday of Ryder Cup week, Couples, an assistant to Love, chaperoned Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson at the local cinema.
Love didn’t know what movie they went to see, but perhaps a "Rocky" rerun was playing.
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COURSE CONDITIONS: In what could be a Ryder Cup trend, Love requested the setup at Medinah Country Club's No. 3 Course to be fair and fun, with plenty of birdie chances.
In the 1999 and 2006 PGA Championships, Medinah proved to be a beast, with thick rough that forced chip-out recoveries.
Love wanted to let the players play, so the rough will be minimal and good scoring plentiful.
"We want to let these unbelievable athletes freewheel it a little bit and play,” Love said. “I think fair and fun and exciting for the fans on TV is the way to go.”
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ALMOST LIKE A NATIVE: Luke Donald grew up in England, but since attending Northwestern University in nearby Evanston he might as well be a Chicagoan.
Donald lives in Northfield, a northwest suburb that is 30 minutes by car on a good day (much more on others) from downtown.
He's a Cubs fan and very in-tune with the Chicago scene when he’s in the Windy City. Donald also has a home in south Florida.
“You become familiar with a place,” said Donald, a 2001 Northwestern graduate. “I had a lot of friends. My coach, Pat (Goss), was probably a big reason, too. I started dating Diane (now his wife, the former Diane Antonopoulos) a couple months before I got my Tour card, but we met when I was in college. I didn't really have any reason to go anywhere else, other than the weather, which I had some friends that lived in Florida, I could go if I needed to. But you always stay where you feel comfortable, and I felt very comfortable in Chicago.”
Given Donald's knowledge of Chicago, can he help his fellow Ryder Cup teammates with the Windy City and its fans?
“I don't think I need to give them advice,” Donald said. “I do like Chicago because I think the people are in general pretty friendly. There's a difference between New York and Chicago. New Yorkers can be a little brasher and a little – I don't know what the word is. No filter; they'll say whatever they want. Chicago is a little more reserved. I don't think there will be a problem in terms of the crowds not respecting Europeans. I don't think I have to give them any advice.”
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PAIRINGS: Love is not sure of his pairings for Friday's first session, the morning foursomes. Other than making his four captain's picks to complete the 12-man roster, Love has spent the most time on pairings. He will give it at least one more day of attention, with input from his players.
“I want them to go practice tomorrow and tell me what they think about the course and who likes alternate shot and who likes best ball and who thinks the course suits them better,” Love said Monday afternoon. “So tomorrow is a feel‑it‑out day, and we'll get together tomorrow night and start to plan it up a little bit.”
Love said he will lean on Fred Couples for advice.
Love and Couples, along with assistant Mike Hulbert, have talked about potential pairings, but Couples has had many of these same players on his victorious Presidents Cup teams in San Francisco and Melbourne.
The significance of the pairings could be pivotal. Captain Hal Sutton arguably lost the Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills with his Friday morning pairings, resulting in a 3 1/2-1/2 deficit en route to the Europeans' 18 1/2-9 1/2 rout.
And then there's this fact: Since 1979, the winner of the opening session has won the matches 60 percent of the time.