If the scale of achievement was lost on any European Ryder Cup players prior to this week’s away assignment, then Padraig Harrington has reminded them that their very being at Whistling Straits is perhaps even more significant than any of us could’ve imagined.
Ryder Cup Europe’s social media page has been abuzz with seemingly random numbers over the past couple of days. Matt Fitzpatrick has 152 printed on his golf bag. Ian Poulter is 134. It led to US golf writer Kyle Porter joking, “very cool that Europe put average driving distance on each player’s bag this week”, knowing full well that the numbers represented their place in the history of GBI/Ryder Cup caps, and not their ability to drive a ball.
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) September 21, 2021
“This has been done before in Europe,” Harrington explained, admitting he’s taken inspiration from the British & Irish Lions rugby team that Tour Australia, South Africa and New Zealand every four years.
“I think certainly the Lions were famous for starting it out, and it was obviously, when you’re looking for these teams, this is a theme that the European Tour came up with, and I was very comfortable and happy to buy into it and believe in it, and it’s really worked out very nicely.
“As you would have seen in the video, we have a wall with the roll of fame of who have played, and being able to look at those names and go through it, 164 is just a startlingly small amount of players. Obviously you can blame Lee Westwood for that for playing 11 times, and Sergio, as well, but it’s a small group of people.
“When you think 580 people have gone to space and 5,870 people have climbed Mount Everest, it’s incredible that there’s so few who have played in the Ryder Cup. It makes it very special for the players to know that they have a place in history that can never be taken away from them. They will always have a name on that wall.
“For me, myself, I’m up there 131, so it’s nice for me to look back and remember — kind of remember the person I was as a Ryder Cup player, and for these current players, obviously they’re experiencing it. The three rookies, it was extra special for them to be added in, and they had their moment to stand up and kind of receive the applause of everybody that they’re new to this. It was a lovely way to start the week. We have more.”
Rory McIlroy might be playing in his sixth Ryder Cup this week in Wisconsin but he had never fully grasped just how small a pool of players have had their chance to represent Europe at the most famous team contest in golf.
“I’m No. 144; I think Lee is No. 118. But then you just look at all the players before you, and you look at Bernd Wiesberger who’s making his debut this year who’s No. 164. It’s a small collection of people that have played for Europe in the Ryder Cup,” McIlroy said.
“I think that’s what brings us very close together, and that’s been one of our sort of big focus points this week is just being here is very special and being part of a European team. Very few people can call themselves a European Ryder Cup player.
“570 people have been into space. I think over 5,000 people have climbed Everest. 225 have won a men’s major. When you sort of break it down like that it’s a pretty small group and it’s pretty cool.”
And if you wanted an insight into why Europe has largely outplayed their United States counterparts for the best part of two decades in the Cup, then McIlroy gave a very succinct answer when asked what Europe play for, given it’s obvious that the Americans are “united” under the red, white and blue.
“We play for each other,” he said. “I think that’s the best thing that you can do. You play for the guys that are beside you. You play for everyone that’s helping our team try to win this week. You’re obviously playing for your country and your continent and I guess your Tour in some way, as well. But most of all, we play for each other.”
Stay ahead of the game. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest Irish Golfer news straight to your inbox!