Both the American and European teams arrived in Scotland for this week’s Ryder Cup on a relatively quiet day in which a haircut attracted most of the attention.
Rickie Fowler, a teen idol in golf circles, stepped off the U.S. charter at Edinburgh on Monday with “USA” shaved into the side of his hair. Even old-school Tom Watson, the 65-year-old American captain from Kansas City, liked it.
“I thought it was terrific,” Watson said. “It brings a light spirit to the team.”
The Americans flew overnight as a team and did little more than chipping and putting Monday before getting started on their practice rounds today. Play begins at 1:35 a.m. Friday.
“Our team came over in good shape,” Watson said after the flight from Atlanta. “They are trying to get their legs right now.
“They are getting a little food in them, getting their clothes fitted the right way and going out and chipping and putting and just having an easy day of it today.”
It’s a long week for those involved even before the week’s main festivities commence.
Players will have practice rounds starting today to get used to the PGA Centenary Course, and they will have media responsibilities and functions to attend each night. It’s a good bet that there will also be some bonding sessions in the team rooms.
Watson reminded his players from his vast experience — only three American players were even born when Watson played his first Ryder Cup in 1977 — not to worry if it takes a few days for their golf games to come around.
“Right now, it’s just logistically getting all the housekeeping out of the way, for our team in particular, the jet-lag,” Watson said. “I basically told them, don’t worry about your golf swings for the next couple days. Get your body on time, just get a chance to see the golf course, and by Thursday or Friday, that’s when that focus and that golf swing should start to occur.”
Unlike the Americans who came over on one plane — except for Phil Mickelson, who was already in town and greeted his teammates on the tarmac at the airport — the European squad arrived from all over the map. For example, Martin Kaymer came in from Germany, Henrik Stenson from Sweden and Sergio Garcia from Spain.
“Everything is on schedule and we’re raring to go,” European captain Paul McGinley said.
Europe is considered a favorite, and McGinley believes that to be a badge of honor instead of a burden.
“We have been favorites before,” said McGinley, who has never been part of a losing Ryder Cup team as a player or vice captain. “And I think our players deserved it. The guys have worked very hard to be in the position they are.”
The matches in recent years have been close, including a 14 1/2-13 1/2 win two years ago at Medinah in Illinois that gave Europe five wins in the last six matches. McGinley believes the competition will be close again this year.
“This is not a weak American team,” McGinley said. “We might be slight favorites with the bookies, but the two teams are very well balanced and very close together. We know it’s going to be a very tough contest ahead of us.”