I was 20 when I first played in the Ryder Cup, in 1977. My
partner for the week, Peter Oosterhuis, was 29 and looked after
me. On the first day we beat Raymond Floyd and Lou Graham 2 and
1 in foursomes, and on the second we drew a four-ball match
against Floyd and Jack Nicklaus. I thought, Wow, here I am
playing Big Jack! It was a good opportunity to take a scalp, as
I'll be playing in the Texas Open next week because for the
first time in my career I didn't make the European team. Neither
did Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer or Ian Woosnam, so we'll
have a new bunch of guys, seven of whom will be representing
Europe for the first time. The key bit for the rookies is how
well they play with all the razzmatazz of the Ryder Cup going on
around them. Another important point is that they have to
realize they've got everything to gain. That attitude can make a
player very dangerous.
That said, I believe the key to the Cup isn't the rookies but
how well the top four players perform. By playing in four or all
five matches, they set the trend for the team and can account
for 50% of its points. For the U.S., the big four are Tiger
Woods, David Duval, Phil Mickelson and another hot player. For
Europe, they're Colin Montgomerie, Jesper Parnevik, Lee Westwood
and Sergio Garcia, who will have to forget that he's a rookie.
As for me, I knew it was doubtful that I'd make the team. I kept
hoping that at the 11th hour I would do something great, but at
the BMW Open, the final qualifying event, captain Mark James
said that even if I won, he wouldn't pick me. I wish he had said
that earlier. I could've gone from the PGA, in Chicago, to
Florida to visit my kids, instead of to Munich. Still, there's
always the Belfry in 2001 and time for me to piece it together
Somewhere inside lurks the game I had when I first played Big
Jack in 1977. By the way, Oostie and I won that match 3 and 1.
Nick Faldo has scored the most points (25) in Ryder Cup history.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK