There's no 'I' in 'Team'. They're a sharp bunch this golfy crowd. Graeme McDowell knows more than most about this feeling of union and camaraderie that plays such a significant factor in the European ethos.
Two years ago at Celtic Manor, the Northern Irishman had the hopes of his team-mates, his captain and an entire continent on his shoulders. The 33-year-old did not buckle. Playing the anchor role on the closing singles session in Wales, McDowell stood firm and delivered a 3 and 1 victory over Hunter Mahan which pushed the hosts over the winning line and gave them a slender one-point triumph. It is something he will never tire of recounting, even though the moment itself was one of ferocious stomach churning and anguish.
"I don't think I've ever been as nervous on a golf course as I was for those last seven holes," recalled McDowell in the build up to Europe's defence of the gold chalice this weekend. "From the 10th green onwards, when I looked at the giant scoreboard, I did exactly what you're not supposed to do as the 12th man. I did a quick calculation and realised that I was going to be needed.
"You're just trying not to mess up and lose it for your team-mates. I could have 200,000 spectators watching, but two of my team-mates watching, almost begging me to get the job done, is very intimidating and nerve-wracking. You look at your team-mates and you know how they feel. They feel helpless because there's nothing more they can do. It was Hunter Mahan and myself. Someone was going to be the hero and someone was going to be the villain. Thankfully, I was able to get the job done."
Would he fancy getting the opportunity to get the job done again come Sunday afternoon? "Part of me would love that opportunity," he said. "Part of me would love it but part of me would hate it. I'll take whatever comes."
On that sun-drenched Monday in Newport two years ago – the event had spilled into an extra day because of rain – it seemed like the entire population of Wales had shoehorned themselves into the Celtic Manor resort to roar McDowell home. It will be a different set-up this week, of course, with the boisterous folk of the Windy City coming out in force to try and blow Team Europe off course.
Davis Love III, the US captain, knows how important the influence of the crowd, the so-called 13th man, will be. They want to get geed up and the way the Medinah No.3 course has been set up by Love will provide plenty of scope for that. Generous fairways and a remarkable lack of rough mean the bombers should have a field day. The heavy artillery will be out and McDowell is expecting something of a birdie blitz.
"The only thing that Davis can do is set up the course for scoring to get the crowds on their feet and charged up from the word go," said the former US Open champion. "I think that that's their tactics, to get the crowds behind them. At Oakland Hills in 2004, the course was quite difficult and the crowd didn't really get behind their guys in a way they would've liked them to. Scoring was tough and it wasn't that exciting. It was a battle of attrition really that Europe won very well. But Davis wants birdies and eagles to get the crowd fizzed up. It's going to come down to putting. You've got 24 great players and it's going to boil down to who holes the most putts."
While offering his thoughts on Love's approach, McDowell gave some hints as to what we can expect from a European point of view for Friday's opening session of foursomes and fourballs. "The established partnerships are fairly obvious," said McDowell, who was out for practice yesterday morning with his 2010 partner Rory McIlroy and the duo of Sergio Garcia and Paul Lawrie. "Myself and Rory, [Ian] Poulter and [Justin] Rose, [Luke] Donald and Garcia, perhaps a [Lee] Westwood and a Lawrie. You can pretty much predict our first eight players for Friday morning. You don't need me to tell you that. Will we be that predictable? Who knows?"
If McDowell's two previous Ryder Cup experiences have taught him anything, it's to harness the nervous energy of the event and channel it into the right places once it's time to burst out of the blocks. "Experience will be a big key this week, just knowing what to expect," explained McDowell, who has racked up a haul of five points from the eight Ryder Cup ties he has been involved in since his debut at Valhalla in 2008.
"The big thing that I've learned is that being nervous and anxious is not worth it because when the gun goes off you just have to go out there and play hard and aggressive because you know that if you don't shoot seven or eight-under you're going to lose. There's no room for anxiety about bad shots.
"Bogeys or doubles will not matter this week, they won't matter at all. It's all about the quality of your good shots, the holed putts, the chip-ins and just the exciting things. You have to enjoy the atmosphere, get charged up and enjoy the adrenaline that's going through your veins."
There should be plenty of that in supply come Friday morning.
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