Ryder rookies to lead Americans toward Cup

There is no way to know what they do not know. They can ask questions, seek advice, try to simulate the feeling, recall their amateur match-play days, even fall back on what it was like to be in contention during a tournament or a major championship.

But nothing can really prepare a player for his first Ryder Cup.

While Anthony Kim is just 23, many expect the young American to be a Ryder Cup fixture for years to come.

The event’s uniqueness, intensity and pressure all combine to make the three-day tournament between the United States and Europe quite stressful for those teeing it up for the first time.

Chris DiMarco said he was so nervous in 2004, he begged off the opening tee in alternate shot and had his partner, Jay Haas, go first. Padraig Harrington said he could not even see the ball on the first tee in 1999.

The stories are endless, and it only seemingly makes the Americans’ task all the more difficult as they will try to halt a three-match losing streak to Europe when the 37th Ryder Cup matches begin Friday at Valhalla in Louisville.

Half the U.S. team will be newcomers — Anthony Kim, Boo Weekley, Ben Curtis, Steve Stricker, J.B. Holmes and Hunter Mahan — for a team that has not won since 1999 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., and has lost five of the last six.

Of course, does experience really matter when most of it is negative? Of the players on the 2008 squad, only Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard were around for the ’99 victory, yet all three have losing Ryder Cup records. Stewart Cink, Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell have all played on losing teams.

“I think after what we’ve all been through in the last three Ryder Cups, we should have 12 rookies,” quipped Cink — who has been part of consecutive nine-point defeats — before turning serious.

“The rookies we have this year are fearless competitors,” he said. “It’s hard to consider Anthony Kim a weak point on our team. He’s played so well; he’s got that cocky attitude. Boo is solid. There’s enough of them that they aren’t going to play like rookies. There’s enough of them out there where I don’t think there will be the deer in the headlights, as if there were just one or two.”

Cink said he felt the pressure build as his first Ryder Cup approached in 2002 at The Belfry. Then he had to sit out the morning matches, adding to the stress.

That might be one factor for captain Paul Azinger to consider as he ponders his pairings. Trying to get some of the newcomers into the mix immediately might work well for them. The problem is, with six rookies, not all of them will be in the lineup Friday morning with just four matches and eight players able to tee it up.
*****from Jim Modlin, courtesy of*****