European spirits high in first practice
Under blanket blue skies and wall-to-wall sunshine at Medinah Country Club, the players of Team Europe were showing plenty of camaraderie and high spirits during the first official practice day ahead of The 2012 Ryder Cup.
With the tree-lined No. 3 Course looking in superb condition on Tuesday despite the scorching summer that has preceded this year’s contest in Illinois, there were already bustling crowds at Medinah to watch both European and American sides take their first official jaunts around the host venue.
As fans packed the towering grandstands that surround the first tee in preparation of the afternoon’s Ex-Captains and Celebrity Scramble exhibition match that featured the likes of Olympic swimming icon Michael Phelps and film and music star Justin Timberlake, there was, unsurprisingly, a huge presence of American fans taking to the course.
However, with all 12 of José María Olazábal’s side plotting their way around the layout on which great drama will surely follow this weekend, there were pockets of vocal European support dotted around Medinah as the blue and gold of the European colours could be seen here and there both in flags and in items of clothing.
On the scenic par three 13th hole, played downhill and across the Medinah lake, the first practice group of Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood came running onto the teeing area with smiles all round, back slapping and good spirits in abundance.
When on the greens there was plenty of conversation between team members as the squad discussed landing points, green gradients, putting lines and potential tactics.
Graeme McDowell, meanwhile, strolling down the fairway alongside Sergio Garcia, took time to mimic the Spaniard’s famous run and scissor-kick jump from the 1999 US PGA Championship that was held at Medinah 13 years ago, while Germany’s Martin Kaymer could be seen engaging in a confab with Vice Captain Paul McGinley and later laughing with arms around the shoulders of Captain Olazábal.
All good signs for Europhiles, then as a wealth of European camaraderie and solidarity was in evidence as Ryder Cup week gains pace.