The terrifying first tee
There can be nothing quite like a first-ever tee shot in The Ryder Cup; the crowd, the noise, the nerves, the adrenalin pumping. For most of us it is a feeling we will never get the chance to experience first-hand. So what does it really feel like? We found out with the help of Paul Lawrie and two of José María Olazábal’s Vice Captains…
Paul Lawrie, 1999, Brookline
I played with Monty, foursomes against David Duval and Phil Mickelson. I had the first shot. When you are standing there, trust me, it is not good. What made it harder was that the referee in our game thought he would tell Monty that he, like the two of us, was "Scotch" and then the guy took out pictures of his grandkids to show Monty. This was about a minute before I've got to hit the first shot. So Monty is standing there giggling at this guy, then he gets into an argument with him – "I'm not Scotch. Scotch is a drink. I'm Scottish." When I got on the tee I was as nervous as I've ever been. There were thousands around the tee and then you know there are millions of people watching on the telly. There are so many shocking shots that I was quite proud of myself. Mickelson missed the fairway by about 50 yards.
Darren Clarke, 1997, Valderrama
I was playing alongside Monty. It was Friday morning and we were playing against two of my great friends, Davis Love and Freddie Couples. I was nervous to say the very least: the hands, the legs, the knees were all going – all the stuff you would expect to be still was moving pretty fast. I teed it up lower than usual and just tried to make contact with the thing. I hit driver – something you wouldn't usually dream of off the first tee at Valderrama and I hit it pretty well, just pulled it a little bit. There's a little tree up there and a kind of V-shape that I could go through with my second shot. I am standing there seeing the shot and Monty comes over and says: "What are you doing?" So I said that I was going to hit it through the V. Monty just looked at me and said: "It's The Ryder Cup for God's sake – draw it under the tree and get it up to the green." So that was that and off I went. It's a very nervy occasion but the one comfort you have in that situation is that you know your opponents are feeling exactly the same and you have to try and remember that.
Paul McGinley, 2002, The Belfry
My first shot was playing with Padraig Harrington in the foursomes against Jim Furyk and Stewart Cink. I had the drive. Ideally, the rookie shouldn't go first but the way the course was set up it was better that I went off first. At the Belfry you walk off the practice green towards the first tee and as the crowd saw you coming they just erupted. Sam [Torrance, Europe's captain] was waiting for me. I had decided before I got there I would hit a three wood to stop short of a bunker 265 yards away. With all the adrenalin, I decided to go with five wood and hit the ball 295 yards. I'd never done that before. I didn't have that many nerves because Sam had me so prepared. Nerves can be a great thing sometimes. It was the same when I holed the winning putt. Yes, I was nervous but more than that I was so excited.