Ryder Cup: Europe's Strictly session a new twist on team bonding
Westwood reveals visitors' quirky night of dancing that betrays an inimitable spirit
Ian Poulter in sequins. There's a thought to send a shiver down American spines. Don't worry, Davis, he didn't sparkle in a satin two-piece, but he did step out for the cause in an impromptu Strictly Come Ryder session, revealing once again how far each is prepared to go for the other in the European team room.
The idea of a diversion in the American camp is to throw Matt 'Kooch' Kucher a table tennis ball and invite all-comers to beat him. The boys in blue, instead, pulled on their dancing shoes and, in a febrile session, gave new meaning to that golfing staple, the shoulder turn. According to Lee Westwood, Poulter is unlikely to progress to an audition with Brucie (below). "I don't know whose idea it was, but it was fantastic fun," Westwood said. "I was told I've got good hips. I'm not going to show you them. I dance a mean cha-cha-cha, I can tell you."
Westwood has some expertise in this area, having being immersed in the rhythms of the ballroom as a junior, a feature of his youth that he let slip last year. "In retirement I'd love to have a go. My nan and grandad used to run an old-time dance school, so I did do a bit when I was a little boy. I was even 'highly commended in a couple of dances: the Lilac Waltz and the Boston Two-Step. And I've still got the medals to prove it."
The evening in Medinah did not yield anywhere near the same bounty. "We split into teams. Poulter wrecked our chances by introducing break-dancing to ballroom. It brought the whole thing into disrepute. Martin Kaymer was hilarious, the worst by far. I've never seen anyone so stiff and wooden. But Miguel Angel Jimenez, one of our vice captains, had that Latin beat off to a 'T' and his team won it."
Much of the repartee in this build-up phase is heavily choreographed. This little beauty was delivered in a quiet aside away from the formal interview stage. Had Westwood not been poked innocently the night of the stars would have gone unreported. It is details like these that ought to worry an opposition that has yet to crack the team-building code despite a book dedicated to the art written by former captain Paul Azinger after victory in Valhalla.
What the Americans worked so assiduously to acquire four years ago, a tangible sense of unity, is an inherent feature of the European set-up. Present captain Davis Love III has spoken throughout about his excitement at being around his team, yet that enthusiasm appears anchored to the technical gifts of his players and the expectation that they will bring those talents to bear in victory. Europe bring something rather more ephemeral, a quality that cannot be bottled. But it is intuited, and in the fist-pumping presence of Poulter has, perhaps, its greatest expression.
Machismo led Poulter too far down the metaphor chain yesterday when he expressed his desire to claim a point as a want to "kill" his opponent. Rory McIlroy dug him out of the hole. "I think kill is a little strong. I'd like to beat them," McIlroy said. And not with a stick. Poulter was nearer the mark when he described holing putts in this environment as, "scoring a penalty in the Champions League final".
When Poulter passes through the Ryder Cup prism he is transformed into a kind of golfing superhero, which endears him to the audience like no other. "It's absolutely magnificent to be wearing this jersey with a crest on it. It is always a proud moment to be part of a great team. I guess I'm going to be one of those guys out there enjoying the electricity. Chicago is a great sporting town and this is going to be a very loud week. It adds to the adrenaline rush and I can't wait to be part of the fun."
Poulter was out with Justin Rose again yesterday morning in a fourball against Martin Kaymer and Peter Hanson. The Americans have elected to start the show with the foursome format, which requires only one member of the team to hit a tee shot. As the visitors, somebody in the European team is going to have to hit first. When asked all of them say they would happily take it. In Poulter's case, he means it. "I would love it. I would relish the opportunity. I'd be honoured to do that."
At the opposite end of the he-man scale, in attitude at least, is Nicolas Colsaerts. Though the Belgian hits the ball further than any on either side, his status as the rookie in the European team imposes on an already quiet demeanour a certain reticence in posture. Yet there is much to commend Colsaerts, not least a cosmopolitan outlook born of his Belgian upbringing and a vocabulary littered with Americanisms from a bygone era like "dude" and "cat".
Colsaerts is on some journey. Three years ago he was ranked outside the top 1,000 in the world. He likens his elevation to "coming back from the dead". He talks about being crushed under the weight of low self-esteem, of a time when he felt unworthy of his professional status. "It's difficult when you're 25 and you know you still have a lot of years in front of you but you don't produce anything like the kind of form you need to get you there. Watching tournaments on TV thinking you don't deserve to be there."
The first tee experience, when it comes, will test his nerve yet listening to Colsaerts you suspect that it won't take him anywhere he has not been before. "At some point you realise that you want to be the player you have always dreamed of being, so you have to work at it, put your heart into it. After that you become a man, sort of thing."
EUROVISION SONG CONTEST
Lee Westwood revealed last night the European players enjoyed an evening of dancing to boost team spirit. Here is the top 10 of what they may (or may not) have boogied to:
1. CLUB Tropicana by Wham
2. GREEN Onions by Booker T Jones
3. I Like it ROUGH by Lady Gaga
4. IRON Lion Zion by Bob Marley
5. The BIRDIE Song by The Tweets
6. DRIVE by The Cars
7. ALBATROSS by Fleetwood Mac
8. The TROLLEY Song by Judy Garland
9. Rock Around The BUNKER by Serge Gainsbourg
10. The WEDGE by Phish
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