Caretakers of the jersey: Euro Ryder Cuppers analyze unity

Caretakers of the jersey: Euro Ryder Cuppers analyze unity
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GUIDONIA MONTCELIO, Italy – U.S. Ryder Cuppers spent much of the week at Marco Simone using a microphone to combat relentless questions and reports about their squad being fractured, arguing that, in fact, it was quite the contrary; that this was the closest team they’d ever been a part of.

Their European counterparts, on the other hand, displayed their unity so well that no one could question it.

This not to say that the Americans weren’t being truthful – when they grabbed a bit of momentum Saturday evening, they were a lively collective – but for anyone on the ground in Rome this past week, there was something different in the way the European players interacted with each other. As a whole, Team Europe was far more engaged during an early-week, social-media carwash, even entertaining a bit where teammates subjected themselves to Viktor Hovland’s acquired taste in music. There were also anecdotes of firepit stories and emotional videos and matching pajamas, while the Americans could barely come up with an example of what made them so close – Justin Thomas eventually said they watched a lot of college football together.

Even something as simple as Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Åberg sitting together in the locker room on bean bag chairs while wearing recovery boots and eating pizza served as a microcosm.

The Americans barely allowed their curtain to be peeled back.

It’s an interesting question: How can a group of guys be so close when, unlike the Americans, they do not all share a flag or language?

After their convincing, five-point triumph on Sunday, a few members of the European team attempted to explain their togetherness.

“I was just thinking there before you asked that question, we are united by a culture and we are united by a generation of players that have come before us,” six-time Ryder Cupper Justin Rose said. “This is our time. Luke [Donald] has been very clear on that message. This is our time to shine, not because this is our stage, we are just taking care of it because of the amazing role models that we’ve had before us that have shown us how to do it. There’s a really strong culture on the European team.

“A good pairing on the European team doesn’t mean playing with your best mate. You know, it’s about representing something bigger than yourself, and I feel like that’s, for me, what being a European Ryder Cup player is all about.”

Added Rory McIlroy, who has played seven Ryder Cups now: “We take the piss out of each other. We have a sense of humor. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. I think that’s a big part of it, too. We feel like we can be ourselves. I can tell Tyrrell [Hatton] to do whatever…”

Interjected Rose, referencing McIlroy’s Saturday night altercation with caddie Joe LaCava: “The boys are calling him Rocky McIlroy.”

After some banter and laughs, McIlroy continued: “I just think we don’t take ourselves too seriously. There’s a real good sense of humor in the team. Luke and the team have put together some amazing videos for us this week. You know, sometimes it’s hard because you’re within a group, and they are making fun of you, but you’re getting made fun of in a good way and it’s appreciated, and everyone has been good sports.

“But as Rosey said, Seve [Ballesteros], Ollie [Jose Maria Olazabal], the legends of the Ryder Cup that have come before us, you know, we’re caretakers of this European jersey right now, and we’re hopefully going to pass it on in the future in a better spot than where we found it. I think that’s really what we are right now.”

Perhaps the most eloquent response came from Jon Rahm. Not that he was ready for the question, as he sat in the middle of the back row on the interview stage and hadn’t fielded an inquiry for the first 15 minutes of the presser.

Eventually, after a few seconds to gather his thoughts, Rahm answered: “Obviously, I don’t have as much experience in Ryder Cups as Rosey and Rory have, but I think they nailed it. It’s the ability to walk through those gates and those doors and forget about who you are outside of this week, what you have done or what you may do afterwards, really truly doesn’t matter.

“In my case, obviously the Spaniards have a legacy to live up to. It’s certainly not easy, right. The three main figures before me, Seve, Ollie and Sergio [Garcia], are three guys that if I’m not mistaken, all three of them have earned 20 points in the Ryder Cup; three out of nine are Spanish. So, it’s a lot to live up to, and it’s something that really inspires me, especially when Jose is around, right? He always tells me little things to inspire me in that sense. So, following in their footsteps and how they try to make the team better is the way I’ve approached it as well. I try to do my part in the team room…

“It’s a truly humbling experience to be part of this team.”

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