Ryder Cup: Never mind the boos, says Wilson
Europe's players have seen — and heard — nothing yet. Today will be a different ball game
Sunday 30 September 2012
Europe's golfers can expect to have to face the noisiest and most hostile crowd in world golf in Chicago tonight as they attempt to defend the Ryder Cup victory they achieved in Wales two years ago.
"It could be brutal," warns Oliver Wilson, the Mansfield-based golfer who made his only Cup appearance to date four years ago as the United States produced their only victory this century at Louisville in Kentucky in 2008.
However, as Wilson looks back on that Sunday experience, in which Europe tried to overcome a 7-9 deficit from the first two days of foursomes and fourballs, it is with a chuckle in his voice rather than bitter memories.
During the 16 holes that his singles match lasted he had to walk every fairway with the sound of "Boooooo" constantly bombarding his ears from thousands of American supporters behind the ropes.But not for one second does Wilson, who was 28 at the time, believe their chants played a part as he lost his match 4 & 2 and Europe were beaten 16½-11½.
"I loved the crowd atmosphere and it was all created because I was playing against Boo Weekley," he recalls. "As they do at American tournaments when he is playing, the crowd was booing the whole time.
"It could have felt that everything was against me, but I knew what was going on and enjoyed it. They were pulling for Boo but I could even hear a little bit of Euro-cheering from a few of our fans when I got up close to the ropes."
Twenty-four hours earlier, Wilson had played his first Ryder Cup match, partnering the Swede Henrik Stenson to a 2 & 1 Saturday foursomes victory over the highly fancied American pairing of Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim.
And the way he treated that debut, in the world's third-biggest televised sporting event behind football's World Cup and the Olympics, could prove a salutary lesson for any of Jose Maria Olazabal's team if they feel nervous striding out on to the Medinah course today.
"Some nerves are always going to be there," says Wilson. "But for me just playing on the Saturday morning was fantastic because I was finally getting to play in the Ryder Cup. I had not been played in the Friday matches.
"And yes, there is a lot of noise when you walk on to the first tee, but it's not that bad because it's coming from people in the grandstands. It's when you get out on the course, where there are so many more fans, you can feel a bit outnumbered.
"But with the golfers among them you know they are only pulling for their own side, not so much pulling against you. And while the atmosphere was electric I was able to feel relaxed, which is quite bizarre, because normally at tournaments I am not a relaxed golfer.
"What I tried not to do was buy into their words and their chanting, but absorb the atmosphere of a great sporting event. Generally there was no problem with the crowds in Kentucky but, that said, I think Chicago will be a little bit more brutal given the experience I have had playing in the North-east of America.
"There will be respect from the golfers in the crowd for both teams but it's the people who are not golfers who will make it more like a football game.
"The principle is still the same. You can't buy into what they are saying. The crowds there will be like nothing else in world golf. It will be very rowdy and an amazing atmosphere. But the key is not to get caught up with it but to enjoy it."
Wilson admitted that any signs of blue figures going up on the leaderboard at Medinah to show that Olazabal's players are ahead in their matches will encourage others who may be struggling. He has used that as a driving force to try to raise the level of his own game.
He remains confident that the European team will be drinking out of the Ryder Cup chalice tonight. "A lot depends on how the players are playing," he says. "It helps a lot if you are not struggling to find fairways and sink putts, that makes it a lot easier. If you are not making putts the world can feel very small.
"But the good thing this time is that all of the European players are in good form. They know what's going to happen and they are all experienced.
"On the day they have just got to treat it as another golf tournament. They will just be hitting a little white ball in a field again and that's where the experience can come into play.
"And the other thing to remember as a player is that nobody is going to die if you lose. It's not life and death, it's only golf."
2012 players' singles record
Lee Westwood 7/2/0/5
Rory McIlroy 1/0/1/0
Francesco Molinari 1/0/0/1
Graeme McDowell 2/2/0/0
Justin Rose 1/1/0/0
Ian Poulter 3/3/0/0
Nicolas Colsaerts 0/0/0/0
Paul Lawrie 1/1/0/0
Peter Hanson 1/0/0/1
Luke Donald 3/2/0/1
Sergio Garcia 5/1/0/4
Martin Kaymer 1/0/0/1
United States P/W/1/2/L
Tiger Woods 6/4/1/1
Phil Mickelson 8/4/0/4
Brandt Snedeker 0/0/0/0
Jason Dufner 0/0/0/0
Jim Furyk 6/4/0/2
Steve Stricker 2/1/0/1
Bubba Watson 1/0/0/1
Matt Kuchar 1/0/0/1
Webb Simpson 0/0/0/0
Keegan Bradley 0/0/0/0
Zach Johnson 1/1/0/0
Dustin Johnson 1/1/0/0
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