Europe’s passion is not learned, it’s ingrained
Well documented in this year’s Make it Count theme is that the addition of Viktor Hovland, Shane Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger will take the total number of golfers to have played for Team Europe up to 164.
And while the names of the 12 men may change at each Ryder Cup, one thing that remains consistent in Team Europe is an unwavering, passionate nature defined as team spirit.
It’s something which has been credited again and again, and during Europe’s victory at Le Golf National in 2018, then Captain Thomas Bjørn explained that a big part of it was that the players lift each other up, and ‘leave egos at the door.’
But where does that come from, and how do the European players come together so well at every Ryder Cup?
When Lee Westwood was asked exactly that, his answer was simple: It’s not something that is learned, it’s ingrained in all of them.
“European team spirit is not something we have to work on; it's just there”, said Westwood, who has been on seven winning Ryder Cup teams in his career.
This week Westwood will tie Sir Nick Faldo’s appearance record when he tees up in his 11th Ryder Cup, and he explained that even when he had his first experience in 1997, he never needed someone to tell him how important being on Team Europe is.
“I knew from day one, really,” he continued. “Listen, that week the captain was Seve Ballesteros. There's nobody -- there may have been one or two people over many generations been as passionate as Seve about the game of golf, but I doubt there's been many as passionate about the Ryder Cup as Seve was. He was my captain the first one.
“You just fed off him, really. With Nick Faldo as my partner, Seve and Nick both held the Ryder Cup in high regard, and just being around them you could see how much it meant to them. Passion for the Ryder Cup was never something that I had to learn or gain.”
It’s a sentiment that has been echoed by every player representing Team Europe this week. For Rory McIlroy, a huge part of that spirit comes from putting the normally individual aspects of golf aside and instead playing for each other.
“We play for each other,” McIlroy explained.
“I think that's the best thing that you can do. You play for the guys that are beside you. You play for everyone that's helping our team try to win this week. You're obviously playing for your country and your continent and I guess your Tour in some way, as well. But most of all, we play for each other.
“And then in terms of things that haven't changed for us as Europe, there's a lot of continuity in our team, and I think that's been part of the reason for our success. That's something that I hope never changes because it's worked very well for us.”
Even as a European rookie, Shane Lowry offers the same perspective.
“When you enter that team room-- something just hits you,” said Lowry, who achieved a lifelong goal when he was selected as one of Harrington’s three Captain’s picks.
“I just think to be a part of a group like that just feels so special, and just feels so special to be here competing for Europe.
“I think we all believe so much in ourselves and we all believe so much in each other that we're here playing for each other and we're here fighting for every last point and every last putt we can get. We're fighting not only for ourselves this week but for each other.
“I have no idea why that is that way with Europe, but that's just the way it is, and that's the way it has been for many years.”
For Captain Pádraig Harrington, a part of the legacy belongs to Seve Ballesteros, and his passion for the Ryder Cup is a consistent thread of thought weaved into the European team room. During his press conference, Harrington explained that the spirit of the players is not just simply about a love of being part of a team, but also a feeling of pride and responsibility in representing European golf.
“All our Ryder Cups, all the past, starting -- we tend to look back at Seve,” explained Harrington.
“Obviously it started before Seve, but Seve is the one we will use. All those teams that come before us has led to this situation, and the players know how important it is to play in the Ryder Cup, to play and win the Ryder Cup and how important it is to be -- they just love being a team, too.
“A lot of the guys on my team, a lot of the Europeans, they seem to want to be team players. Shane Lowry thought he was going to be a Gaelic football player; Sergio thought he was going to be a soccer player. So a lot of them have that team background that they nearly crave more so than the golf, so this is their opportunity for -- you look at somebody like Sergio, continually going around to the players and having a quiet word and saying things -- nobody relishes being in this team more than Sergio, and what he does behind the scenes just is really very special.
“I think in Europe we definitely have a very common goal…the Ryder Cup is our way of asserting Europe's position in world golf, the European Tour's position. I think that was Seve's goal back in the '80s, and we carried that on, and I think that brings us together. I think we obviously worked very hard at things like the Make It Count video and the numbers to create that atmosphere.
“I think it also helps that some way when we travel a lot from outside of Europe maybe just to the States or to other places-- we're outsiders, and we're, again, trying to prove ourselves. I think there is an element of all of that put in together that we're here to give credibility, I suppose, to the European Tour and the European players.”