Hot-headed and level-headed: Meet Europe’s Ryder Cup rookies
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France (AP) — Tommy Fleetwood expects to feel 10 times more nervous than he’s ever been on a golf course.
Tyrrell Hatton is hoping he doesn’t turn into the Hulk.
For the rookies on the European team, the Ryder Cup will be as much a test of their character as their game at Le Golf National this week, and there’s just no way of knowing how they’ll cope in the most pressurized atmosphere in golf.
There are five in the team and they fall into two camps.
Hatton and Jon Rahm are the hot-heads. Expect some choice language, tantrums, the slamming of clubs and probably some sulking. Rahm has been using a mental coach in a bid to channel his emotions in the right way, and Hatton also recognizes he needs to change and, in his words, “grow up.”
“I’ve lost golf tournaments from getting in my own way,” Hatton said on Tuesday.
“If I’ve played a tournament and I know I’ve been bad,” he added, “you’re at home cringing on the sofa watching it.”
Then there’s the cool heads. Fleetwood and two rookies from Scandinavia — Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen — stay largely composed and keep their frustrations inside.
Asked to describe his last pressurized situation, Fleetwood veered away from golf and to a big moment in his personal life about this time last year.
“I was a bit overwhelmed when my wife was giving birth,” he said, laughing.
Ian Poulter, a veteran of five Ryder Cups, has taken the rookies under his wing at the start of this week, making sure they feel comfortable in the team room and giving them little bits of advice like bringing waterproofs to the photo shoot early Tuesday.
“It’s a daunting week,” said Poulter, who recalled his own debut in 2004 at Oakland Hills, and the strange sensations he felt as he walked out for his first match.
The first tee shot at a Ryder Cup is widely regarded as the most nerve-wracking in golf and players this week will be surrounded by the biggest first-tee grandstand ever seen in the event. It seats 6,500 spectators.
It’s a shot, and an occasion, that has been on Fleetwood’s mind since the Ryder Cup became a realistic goal of his.
“It’s something that everybody wants in their career, so as nerve-wracking as it is, and whatever those feelings are, everybody wants that in their life,” Fleetwood said. “So you have to just take it on and let it all happen.”
Europe captain Thomas Bjorn said on Tuesday he had a “good feeling” about his rookies, who all qualified automatically, and for good reason. Rahm is No. 8 in the world; Fleetwood is the current European No. 1; Noren has won six events in the last two years, including the French Open at Le Golf National in July.
The Europeans had six rookies when they lost at Hazeltine in 2016, and none of them made it back to Paris. Rahm and Fleetwood, however, should be fixtures in the team for years, and are players Bjorn could lean on heavily this week.
Fleetwood played a practice round on Tuesday with Francesco Molinari, the easygoing British Open champion, but said he would feel just as comfortable paired with a more flamboyant and overtly passionate teammate like Poulter.
As for Hatton, he might need to be paired with someone more laid-back to complement his own fiery nature.
“Obviously, I’m going to be passionate. I can only be myself. But saying that, obviously I need to stay as level-headed as possible,” Hatton said. “I’m not going to turn into the Hulk this week, I hope.”
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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80