09/21 13:47 CDT Column: Handling friction at Ryder Cup a European specialty
Column: Handling friction at Ryder Cup a European specialty
By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) --- Friction within the team is nothing new at the Ryder
Except for the Americans.
Europe has been dealing with it for decades, whether it was the enmity between
Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia, the grievances Darren Clarke and Thomas
Bjorn had with Colin Montgomerie or the general dislike between Ian Woosnam and
It hasn't kept the Europeans from winning with regularity. Woosnam and Faldo
were even partners in 1987 at Muirfield Village and didn't lose any of their
But this is different.
"I think it was kept pretty quiet. No one else was really involved," Rory
McIlroy said of past European squabbles. "The grievances on the other side have
been pretty public."
A large part of that is due to social media, the space where Bryson DeChambeau
and Brooks Koepka have waged a silly battle for the better part of two years.
It reached an uncomfortable level in June when DeChambeau asked security at the
Memorial to intervene when he was tired of hearing fans calling him,
"Brooksie," and Koepka responded with an Instagram post offering free beer if
any spectator had his or her day cut short by being ejected.
They are teammates at Whistling Straits, though most likely not partners. And
it sounds as though it won't be a problem.
"You realize it's only a week, right?" Koepka said this summer. "I can deal
with anybody in the world for a week."
U.S. captain Steve Stricker says he has spoken to them and has been assured by
both players that it won't be an issue during the Ryder Cup. The six automatic
qualifiers for the American team met for dinner in Atlanta two weeks ago and
there were no reports of anything but normalcy.
The ultimate measure will be played out over three days of 28 matches that
start Friday. But it starts away from the course, in the privacy of the team
"I sat down and had dinner with him last night, and it was fine," DeChambeau
said Tuesday without saying if it was a table for two. He also suggested
"something fun" in the future with Koepka, perhaps more evidence they are ready
to move on.
It can be perceived as a potential distraction. Harrington, now the European
captain, believes it also can be a source of strength.
"When you have friction between players, you bring them into a team environment
and you overcome it, that's actually a big bonus to the team. If they get their
act together and pull together, the team sees that and pulls together really
strongly. All of a sudden you get an uplift from it," Harrington told The
"You could say myself and Sergio had that little bit of friction over the
years, which we easily overcame. We would be hugging at the Ryder Cup."
Harrington speaks from experience.
He and Garcia were at odds even before Harrington rallied to beat him at
Carnoustie in the British Open in 2007. One telling moment was at The Players
Championship in 2013 when Garcia accused Tiger Woods of causing fan movement, a
rift that dominated the week.
Harrington was asked about Woods' behavior on the golf course and raved about
him, giving Woods an "A-plus" for etiquette and an "A-plus" for his respect
toward other players. He then was asked what grade he would give Garcia.
"I'm not in a position to rank players," Harrington said as British journalists
broke into laughter.
Paul McGinley wanted Harrington as one of his assistant captains the following
year at Gleneagles. McGinley told British media last week that he went to
Garcia to see if that would work before asking Harrington to join him.
When they arrived at Gleneagles, the captain found Harrington and Garcia
playing table tennis.
"When we go to the Ryder Cup, we don't even feel them. They don't even come
across," Garcia said of the various personality conflicts.
"You have your favorites --- guys you get along with, some you get along with a
little worse," he said. "I can't speak for the Americans. I don't know what
happens there. But it feels like when we get in the team room, everyone takes
their armor off and puts it aside. You can feel that. Everyone is happy to put
their arms around everyone else and try to help.
"It's just the way it is."
That's how it was described with Montgomerie, who ran afoul of one too many
European teammates by vastly improving his lie in the Indonesian Open in 2005.
Get him in the team room at the Ryder Cup, where he was made to feel special so
he could play his best golf, and Montgomerie delivered. He never lost a singles
match in eight Ryder Cup appearances.
McIlroy and Graeme McDowell were in an awkward position in 2014 at Gleneagles.
McIlroy was suing the management company that also represented Graeme McDowell
--- the two major champions from Northern Ireland had been partners the two
previous Ryder Cups.
Phil Mickelson couldn't resist a dig when asked how well the Americans play in
team matches. "Not only are we able to play together, we also don't litigate
against each other, and that's a real plus," Mickelson said.
That was different, as McIlroy notes, because it involved lawyers more than
Besides, it wasn't a problem. Europe won handily. That might be what it takes
for anyone to believe the Americans get along as well as they say they do.
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