GLENEAGLES, Scotland – Under a slate-gray sky, autumn’s chill swept down from the Scottish Highlands with the northwesterly wind that buffeted the European and American Ryder Cup teams in their practice rounds Tuesday at Gleneagles.
While there’s a buzz growing with the 40th staging of these matches at hand, there’s a hush in the land, too.
Apparently, there really is some sort of secret formula to Europe’s domination of these matches over nearly two decades now, but captain Paul McGinley isn’t about to divulge it as he seeks to help the Euros win these matches for the sixth time in the last seven tries and the eighth time in the last 10.
McGinley did more than hint that there’s some architectural construct that’s being passed down from one European captain to the next.
“Can you tell me what his template is?” U.S. captain Tom Watson asked reporters Tuesday.
Template is the word McGinley kept using in his news conference when asked why the Euros keep winning this event.
“There are a number of reasons, and obviously I can’t go into those,” McGinley said. “I’m not privy to what goes on in the American team room. I’m only privy to what goes on in the European team room, and I’m really concerned about getting that template right again this time. It’s not about changing it. It’s about doing what we’ve always done.”
Legends grow large in these parts, where the Americans can at least rest easy that the Scots aren’t reporting seeing the Bean-Nighe doing the U.S. team laundry in the streams around here. The Bean-Nighe are Scottish fairies whose presence is an omen of death. They’re said to be seen washing the clothes of those about to perish.
Have the Euros really figured out some “template” in beating the Americans? Is there really some psychological design to the success? Or is there a little bit of fairy dust being added to the telling.
“We’re doing what we’ve always done,” McGinley said. “We’re going at it again, and I’d like to put a little bit of a cherry on top, a little bit of icing on top and roll it out for whoever the next captain is.”
Whatever the European “template,” Watson knows it has something to do with how the Euros finish matches. Europe won 14½ to 13½ in an epic comeback at Medinah two years ago, winning despite being down 10-4 late on Saturday. Europe won by the same margin at Celtic Manor two years before that, this time prevailing with a clutch finish by Graeme McDowell.
“They’ve been able to pull it out a little bit better at the end,” Watson said. “That’s what I’ve seen. I can’t explain why.”
Certainly, confidence is part of what European captains are building upon. They’ve got that going for them again this week.
“I’ve played on some strong teams, but I tell you, this one is right up there,” Europe’s Lee Westwood said. “We’ve got a lot of very good, world-class players. With the exception of maybe one (the Masters), all the big tournaments this year have been won by Europeans and people on this team. We’re confident without being complacent.”
NBC’s Johnny Miller believes part of the template is that the Euros have a different relationship with the Ryder Cup, and it’s integral to their success.
“My slant on it is that Europe is definitely more a family, and they love the Ryder Cup matches,” Miller said. “They just cannot wait. I mean, the press starts talking about the Ryder Cup the week after the Ryder Cup, and it’s two years away. It’s just a love fest. It’s a team love fest. I think the U.S., they like each other, and they get to know each other better, but I think it’s more a `Gotta win.’ It’s not so much that I love to put my thumb out there and hit it with a hammer.”
Watson will be looking to use American pain to help create a new American template.
“He’s got a very single-minded purpose, and that’s to win the cup back,” American Matt Kuchar said.