It's all in a day's work for Paul Lawrie at the Ryder Cup. Team Europe will take the floor at Medinah this morning for the opening session of foursomes and fourballs and Lawrie will no doubt be hoping that the cup holders are more in step on the course than he was during a light-hearted Strictly Come Dancing session the other night. It's amazing what they'll do to bolster team morale these days and it certainly conjures up some deliciously appalling imagery. The sight of Lawrie, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and others shoogling, shuffling, gyrating and thrusting would've surely put the fear of God into their American rivals. Or perhaps not.
"I was hopeless," lamented Lawrie with a wry smile. "Marian [his wife] was getting very upset because she likes a bit of that, but I was awful. At least I had a go. I'm not sure what it was, but my cha-cha was rubbish; going this way, that way, jig, jig, jig. It was a good idea and it was great fun for an hour. You need that in a team environment, the opportunity to get everyone laughing."
The laughing will stop today, of course, when the serious business starts, but there is clearly a feel-good factor coursing through the European locker room. There has also been plenty of emotion on show, too, as the matches loom.
It's been 13 years since Lawrie last experienced the sense of unity that comes with a Ryder Cup campaign and the 1999 Open champion is revelling in the environment.
"There's more banter and more fun going on than the last time I played," admitted Lawrie, who was one of just three European players on the team charter flight from London earlier in the week. "It's been just lovely. Someone asked me if not everyone arriving on the plane together had an effect, but if you're in that room you can't believe how good the team morale is. It's just brilliant.
"It's a wee bit weird, I suppose, not having been around the Ryder Cup for a while. But it's a bit like riding a bike, I think. It never goes away.
"Olly [Jose Maria Olazabal] got a little bit emotional last night in the team room, and that showed what it means to him. He spoke about Seve [Ballesteros] and what it meant to play with him. How Seve called him up when he was just 16 to play an exhibition match, then playing with him in the Ryder Cup. You could see why he would get emotional."
The respect Lawrie has for his captain and the desire to perform for him is clear. "It's everything he's been doing," he said. "It's the way he speaks to you. You just want to do well for the man. He's inspiring. When someone like that speaks to you and gives you that kind of message, to give your all, the boys get a wee bit emotional too and that's brilliant."
At 43 years old, Lawrie, who picked up three-and-a-half points from a possible five during an impressive cup debut at Brookline in '99, is the elder statesman of the European team. McIlroy is 20 years younger, but he has certainly come of age in a golfing sense.
It was in 2007 that Lawrie got his first close-up glimpse of the young Northern Irishman, during the teenager's professional debut in the British Masters at The Belfry. Seven years on, McIlroy is a double major champion, the world No.1 and, potentially, Europe's on-course leader here this weekend.
"I partnered him in his very first event as a pro and you could see right away the kid was just special," recalled Lawrie. "As soon as you saw him you knew he was going to win majors. He's been great in the team room. To have the world No.1 on your team is a big thing. I think he handles the whole thing pretty well. People forget he's only 23. But he's been a top player for a long time. He's No.1, and he's there for a reason. He's the best by a street at the minute."
Whether Europe will be streets ahead of the US in Chicago remains to be seen. This weekend's clash is shaping up to be a titanic struggle and, with the quality on show in both sides, there will be no room for error. A putt here, a chip-in there; it can all come down to those small things that have big consequences.
Lawrie, himself, is slowly warming to the task. Saddled with a touch of jet lag after flying in – "it's getting worse as I get older" – his first practice session on Tuesday went "poorly." On Wednesday, in the company of Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts, there were improving signs. In the words of Lawrie, however, "I'd be happy to lose on Tuesday and Wednesday rather than Friday."
Whatever the outcome on Sunday night, Lawrie will continue to look forward. In two years' time, the Ryder Cup bandwagon will rumble into Perthshire and park up at Gleneagles. He's been touted as a potential captain on home soil, but a galvanised Lawrie insists he still has plenty more to give on the course. He's not ready to sit on the skipper's buggy just yet.
"I'll be 45 then, but there's no reason why I can't get in the team," declared the world No.28. "There are a few people who get better as they get older and I think I'm one of them. I hit it better than I ever have, I drive it better and I think I'm slowly, but surely, getting better overall. If anything, I think I'll be higher up the rankings than I am now. I can't imagine two years from now I would be uncompetitive. I just can't see it."
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