Sutton tells Europe: 'It's time to stop apologising for Brookline'

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The Independent Online

While Bernhard Langer's European team was involved in a charm offensive on the first day of official practice for the 35th Ryder Cup by signing plenty of autographs out on the course here in Bloomfield, Detroit, Hal Sutton said his team had stopped apologising for the events at Brookline five years ago.

While Bernhard Langer's European team was involved in a charm offensive on the first day of official practice for the 35th Ryder Cup by signing plenty of autographs out on the course here in Bloomfield, Detroit, Hal Sutton said his team had stopped apologising for the events at Brookline five years ago.

"We've apologised for five years for what happened in 1999," the American captain said. "So you all have to forget about it. If we had it over again, we would not have run on to the green. But the truth of the matter is that we are going to be ourselves.

"I've told all of our players to be a gentleman and to be yourself. I have some emphasis, some control over these 12 guys, but not over anybody else. But no more apologies, we are going to be ourselves."

On the opening day of practice, the atmosphere was perfectly genteel but there was a mild surprise in that Langer had his team out in threeballs. The Americans practised more traditionally in three fourballs, but, in fact, both captains are keeping their ideas over the pairings for the foursomes and fourballs on Friday and Saturday so secret they have not even told their players yet.

"The idea today was for the guys to have a look at the course," Langer explained. "I didn't want them to worry about the pairings or anything else. Today is about getting a feel for the course, to get the game plan going, to find out where to hit the ball, and where not to. If they were in fours it would just take too long."

This was really only Langer doing what he always does - setting out to do something with one aim and doing it properly. "We have two more days to, if it is necessary, to get some guys together. But I think it would be wrong to worry too much about the match and not pay attention to the golf course."

Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, a partnership from the Belfry, happened to be in the same threeball, along with Colin Montgomerie, but clearly Langer is not concerned about the identity of his pairings.

"First of all, I am in a unique situation where pretty much any of my players could play with any of the others," he said. "It gives me a lot of options and freedom. As a player, I know sooner or later you want to have some idea who you might be playing with and I will let them know as time gets closer."

Sutton has told his players that they will not find out until Thursday what their pairings are, although some, like Phil Mickelson, has tried to ask quietly more than once. "I told Phil that he was good enough to play the two other people on his own so if I give him a little help that's just a bonus," Sutton said. The American captain had a similar philosophy about preparing his players early in the week.

"These guys know how to prepare themselves on their own every week of their lives," he said. "I've told them to get themselves ready.

"They have no clue who they will be playing with and I told them not to read anything into anything when it comes to who they play with in practice. If they know who they are playing with, then they start worrying about the other guy's game. We are going to worry about our own games."

Sutton indicated that everyone will play on Friday but that he might keep a few pairings going for all four matches on the first two days. It is something the Europeans have done in the past, but ironically Langer may chop and change between the fourballs and the foursomes.

Michael Jordan was the special guest at the Americans' team dinner on Monday night, while Langer left gifts of expensive watches for his player members on their arrival in Detroit. Perhaps it was a reminder not to be late for any meetings, as Darren Clarke was in Germany last week.

Paul Casey is not known for hanging on to caddies for long, but even by his standards firing his bag man on the eve of the biggest week of his career was novel. Ken Comboy, who caddied for Thomas Bjorn in 2002 at the Belfry, had been with him for 15 months but was due to go after this week.

"The relationship had got stale," said Casey, who fired his man after the final round of the German Masters on Sunday. "It wasn't an easy decision to make and I should probably have done it sooner but it was based on the need to win as many points as possible this week."

Craig Connelly, a Glaswegian who has caddied for Helen Alfredsson in the Solheim Cup, has taken over a week early but, not being as tall as Comboy, his shirt sleeves were down below his elbows and his trousers were still being altered.

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