Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2023 Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, Rome, Italy

“It got quite heated on the other side of the ropes. Nothing happened between the players and families but certainly the spectators. Things were difficult for our families to hear. 

“You grow up through playing the game, though, where some people will like you and some won't. You just have to deal with it.”

When Andrew Coltart boarded the plane to The 1999 Ryder Cup in Brookline, Massachusetts, he did not expect the hostile atmosphere that greeted Team Europe.

After a strong European Tour season which featured six top ten finishes, the then 29-year-old was selected as a wildcard pick by European Captain Mark James,

This meant the Scotsman joined Sergio Garcia, Pádraig Harrington, Miguel Ángel Jiménez, Paul Lawrie, Jarmo Sandelin and Jean van de Velde as rookies on Team Europe.

Signs that the 1999 playing of the biennial event could be a fiery one came shortly before the event began, when several members of the American team tried to bait European players into confrontation.

“There were some things that had been said prior to the match and we tried to use that to our advantage,” said Coltart.

“Some American players had suggested they were the 12 best players in the world. Mark O'Meara and some of the others even suggested that The Ryder Cup took so much out of their season that they needed to be paid for it, which we found just quite ridiculous because it was such an honour and a privilege to represent Europe.

“We couldn't believe people were wanting to get paid.

“It’s tough playing away from home and we knew going in with seven rookies that it was going to be difficult but we tried to create an atmosphere that took pressure off the team.

“For all intents and purposes, we did a really good job up until the Sunday.”

It would be the Sunday singles when the two-time European Tour winner would make his Ryder Cup bow.

Missing out on the first four sessions could have been disappointing, yet Coltart appreciated the decisions Captain James had to make in the best interests of the team.

“It certainly didn't have an adverse effect on me,” Coltart added.

“It was very difficult for the Captain. He would go into the event with his idea as to how the team was going to take shape and how things would possibly transpire, but when you play in team situations like that, things are very fluid.

“You have to change, you have to be adaptable and you have to be able to react to certain situations as both a Captain and as player. I think that is what Mark was ultimately doing.

“At that stage, very little was talked about in Ryder Cup circles about resting players for the singles. It was almost unheard of. There were egos at stake because some players wanted to be seen to be playing five matches.

“I think Mark had a plan but was surprised - as was everybody who was watching - that Europe ended up going into those singles with a four-point lead.

“As hindsight teaches us, possibly mistakes were made regarding that because the singles certainly didn't work out anywhere close to what was needed or what we had hoped. Up until that point though, the Captain had led a team of seven rookies to a four-point lead in America, which was utterly unheard of.

“From my point of view, I was delighted to be there. I was a pick and supposed I had a part to play, which probably would have been in the foursomes relative to the strengths of my game. But the matches earlier on in the week were turning out in favour of Europe, with very strong partnerships that couldn't be broken.

“Do you bring somebody in who hasn't played to save his ego or to give him a game at the potential loss of a point? Or do you stick with something that has worked so far and win points?

“It's a very difficult decision for a Captain to gamble and bring in another rookie, which would potentially halt the momentum.

“At that time we were dominating the contest, with the crowd also on our side. Who'd have thought we'd be leading going into the singles?

“I wasn't going to stand there and say ‘why am I not getting a game?’ That's just ridiculous to think. If the Captain says that you're sitting on the sidelines then you sit on the sidelines.

“You don't sit there and try to break up the team internally by causing ructions and murmurings behind the scenes because poor you, you're not happy that you've been made to sit out.

“I would actually go as far to say that if I was ever Captain, I don't necessarily agree with the potential sacrificing of a point just to give a player a prior opportunity to play before the singles.

“That's because by the time I got to play, I was desperate to get out there and ready to go. I was chomping at the bit and fired up.”

And what a debut match it would be for the Scotsman.

He would go up against the then World Number One Tiger Woods, who had just recently won his second Major at the US PGA Championship.

In fact, in total Woods won eight times on the PGA Tour in 1999.

“When the draw came out, I thought that's a bit of shame because Tiger was just incredibly dominant at that time in his career,” Coltart said. “I think he was in the middle of an eight tournament win streak or something at the time. The guy was just unstoppable.

“Sam Torrance came up to me and said: ‘Listen this is a great draw for you. It's a win-win situation because everyone expects you to get beaten but it's only 18 holes. You can take him.’

“When you put it like that, over 18 holes is nothing when at The Open I was level with Woods after three rounds at Carnoustie. You put it like that and, yes, over 18 holes I have a chance.

“Four rounds is a different story.

“I'd played with Tiger in the last round of The Open that year at Carnoustie. I think we were third or fourth from last group out. That was my first competition pairing with Tiger. That probably stood me in good stead and gave me a chance to understand what it was going to be like out there.

“I enjoyed our match up. Of course, there were nerves on the first tee, but who wouldn't be nervous? I was desperate to get out there.”

If playing the World Number One wasn’t a big enough challenge, Coltart also had to compete with the boisterous Brookline crowd.

Coltart added: “Inside the ropes the atmosphere was better. However, our family and friends outside were much closer to what was being said and to the behaviour of the crowd.

“It was round about that time of the ‘War on the Shore’. That kind of started things with the American fans. They quite possibly became even more patriotic.

“It got quite heated on the other side of the ropes. Nothing happened between the players and families but certainly the spectators.

“Things were difficult for our families to hear.

“You grow up playing the game and learn some people will like you and some won't. You just have to deal with it.

“I preferred playing away from home because it meant we were underdogs. We were trying to rub it in their noses on their soil. But it was tough.

“I don't really remember us mingling after the event. It was tremendously disappointing because we had so much confidence and momentum heading into the final day. We felt things were happening for us and we could pull this off.

“We were maybe overconfident.

“We were all incredibly down and the adrenaline left sharpish after the match. The feeling was very sombre. There was a sense of dejection and utter exhaustion. After putting in such an incredible effort and at the last minute to come up shy was devastating.

“I'm sure if we'd have won, we would have partied through the night, but people were looking introvertly at themselves and asking if they could have done things differently. We took those thoughts with us, but we could still pat ourselves on the back and say it was a tremendous competition and a tremendous fight.”

Nowadays, Coltart finds himself still inside the ropes at golf tournaments but as a commentator for Sky Sports Golf.

And commentating on Ryder Cup matches comes with its own pressures.

“It's incredible to be right back in there again, inside the ropes, broadcasting and living the atmosphere. Being a part of it and absorbing the electricity from the crowd and players is a tremendous environment to be in the centre of.

“They actually pay me to talk during the matches, which is incredible. I love being inside the ropes and be able to watch it all unfold right in front of you.

“You're running on adrenaline as a player from the minute you get there. The nerves, the pressure and the magnitude of the whole event is always in your mind. Your expectation vs reality of what happens during the matches you're not involved in plays on your mind all day.

“By the time the games were over I was exhausted.

“From a broadcast side of things you put a lot into it too, but it's such a different feeling. The pressure is nothing like the pressure of playing, but you still have to get it right despite not being under such severe scrutiny.

“As a player every swing you make is looked at.

“When you're broadcasting, it's just an enjoyable feast to be part of. When you're playing, the pressure is just so enormous. Darren Clarke said to me ‘just try and enjoy it’ but when it's your first time it's very difficult to enjoy it because it's so different to anything you've ever come across in your life.”

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