Westwood and Co put their shirts on a charm offensive as Ryder Cup defence edges closer
23:10 GMT, 26 September 2012
Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal will not talk about his pairings, but then there is no need. They trooped out on to the course in the line-ups predicted in this paper by Graeme McDowell last Saturday.
It would take an unforeseen turn of events or a sudden bout of illness for Rory McIlroy-McDowell, Sergio Garcia-Luke Donald, Ian Poulter-Justin Rose and Lee Westwood-Francesco Molinari not to present the first line of attack in the foursomes on Friday morning.
Nicolas Colsaerts-Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson-Martin Kaymer could well lead them out in the afternoon fourballs.
Talking tactics: European team captain Jose Maria Olazabal talks with his vice-captain Darren Clarke
‘Have you worked out what’s happening’ asked Westwood, mischievously, after his group had all driven off from the fifth tee. It was hardly rocket science.
‘It will be interesting to see if I play Frankie’s ball, won’t it,’ added Westwood, smiling broadly. He did, of course.
‘It’s a nice pairing because we’re basically the same player, only I am 20 yards longer,’ he said, thereby going quite a way to explaining why one half of the partnership has squillions in the bag and the other has to get by with just the 15million or so.
Time to deliver: Lee Westwood signs autographs for fans
In a crowd-pleasing move, Europe took to the course wearing shirts adorned with the Chicago skyline. Westwood was wearing a sleeveless sweater over his, which rather spoiled the effect.
The only thing visible was a small line at the junction between arm and shoulder, depicting the outside of the Hancock building. ‘It’s a nuisance because I keep thinking it’s a piece of dirt and try to brush it off,’ he said.
Just as they have in recent Ryder Cups on this side of the pond, the European team took time in the walk between each green and each tee to sign autographs.
Local boy: Luke Donald (centre) stands with Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia
As you would expect, local boy Luke Donald was a popular choice. Westwood, signing autographs down one side of the ropes, raised a laugh when someone cried out from the opposite side. ‘Am I not doing anything over here’ he asked.
Whether Europe’s charm offensive will have much effect, only time will tell. Perhaps the beer-crazed hordes are leaving it until Friday but the people who walked through the gates didn’t look the kind who would turn this place into a bearpit.
Walking the course: The European team prepare
This time last year, Medinah was unplayable owing to a series of downpours that left the fairways looking like the omnipresent Lake Kadijah had burst its banks. This year the forecast is for an unbroken series of perfect autumnal days of the sort that have graced the first two practice sessions.
So many players on both sides playing well and now the weather is set fair, too. Roll on Friday.