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Oliver Wilson prepares to make his Ryder Cup debut(Getty Images)

Rookies have matchplay in their blood

By Michael Gibbons- Europeantour.com

Print News

They may not have experienced the intense pressure of standing on the first tee on day one of a Ryder Cup, but European rookies Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose and Oliver Wilson will make their debuts at Valhalla safe in the knowledge that they have matchplay golf in their blood.

Having come through the amateur ranks in Great Britain and Ireland, the trio have being representing their respective counties and countries in fourballs and foursomes since they started dreaming of teeing up golf's greatest team event.

McDowell was something of a matchplay animal in his amateur days, winning both the Walker Cup and the Palmer Cup in his youth, before going on to add the 2006 Royal Trophy (representing Europe versus Asia) and the 2005 Seve Trophy (in the biennial match between Europe and Great Britain and Ireland).

A prolific points gatherer in all of his past team experiences, the Northern Irishman has the temperament and ability to rise to the big occasion and handle himself under the most intense pressure.

He has shown that twice already on The European Tour International Schedule this season with his sudden-death play-off win at the Ballantine's Championship and The Barclays Scottish Open. McDowell had to pull a glory shot out of his bag to win both of those tournaments, and twice he rose to the occasion with stunning approach shots to seal victory.

"I have good matchplay experience through international golf and playing in things like the Walker Cup, the Palmer Cup, the Royal Trophy and the Seve Trophy. There is no doubt that matchplay is a different kettle of fish and I am looking forward to getting those old feelings back this week.

"You can play a lot more aggressively and you don't have to stick a six or seven down at the end of a hole if you hit it in the water. You can fire at pins and make eagles and birdies and be a bit more aggressive."

Rose believes the European model has been a key factor in Europe's dominance of The Ryder Cup over the last 13 years in which they have lost just one match out of six.

"I definitely think the fact that, I think, all of the European players have at one point in their amateur careers played team golf and represented their countries playing fourballs and foursomes is a big factor in our success. We have all experienced it and maybe that helps us adjust to The Ryder Cup format a bit easier."

Wilson sampled both the European and American system of amateur golf, having represented England at international level and was part of the victorious 2003 Walker Cup side.

"Obviously it's great to have sampled both systems if you like. I feel very comfortable playing either format (fourball or foursome) because we played so much of it back in the amateur days, but it was in America that I kind of learned to play more than anything.

"It was there that I learned to forget about technique and forget about everything else. I won a tournament by chipping in for an eagle on the last and getting myself and the team into an individual play-off and we won both."