CHASKA, Minn. — Martin Kaymer thought he was supposed to deliver extraordinary shots at the Ryder Cup because that’s all he ever saw.
He was a Ryder Cup rookie at Celtic Manor in 2010, sensing perhaps even more pressure because he had won his first major a month earlier in the PGA Championship. The week went as well as Kaymer could have hoped. He didn’t lose any of his three team matches, except he was trounced by Dustin Johnson in singles.
The most valuable lesson he can impart on Europe’s six rookies at Hazeltine is that good shots — not necessarily spectacular ones — usually are good enough.
“I thought the entire week, I need to make something special happen,” Kaymer said Thursday. “When you watch the Ryder Cup, most of the time you see the highlights and you only see great shots, bunker shots holed from the fairway and things like this. So you think you need to do that, too.
“And I hope that the rookies … I know it’s very difficult, but somehow that you try to find a way to calm yourself down and enjoy what you do.”
It’s a message for half of the European team.
Europe also had six rookies at Celtic Manor, and it went on to beat the Americans. Neither team, however, has had at least six newcomers and won the Ryder Cup when playing before a visiting crowd.
The Europeans had seven rookies, including 19-year-old Sergio Garcia and British Open champion Paul Lawrie, in 1999 at The Country Club outside Boston. Mark James, the captain, elected to sit out three of them until Sunday singles. Jarmo Sandelin, Jean Van de Velde and Andrew Coltart all lost their matches as the U.S. rallied from a 10-6 deficit to win.
Bernhard Langer had five rookies on his team in 2004, and two of them sat out the entire first day — Paul Casey and Ian Poulter.
“I will, along with the help and guidance of my vice captains, try and put out the strongest eight players … as I see fit for the position the team is in,” Darren Clarke said, not promising that all six rookies will see action Friday.
But he also expressed full confidence.
One of his rookies is Danny Willett, who won the Masters. Another is Matt Fitzpatrick, who won a U.S. Amateur. And then there’s Thomas Pieters, whose only chance to make the team was to impress Clarke over the final two weeks. He was runner-up in the Czech Masters and won in Denmark.
“They are probably going to be the future of the Ryder Cup going forward and I feel very fortunate that they are here,” Clarke said. “I have full belief in all those rookies. They are very, very talented players and I’m sure they will do their utmost to represent Europe the best that they can this week.”
The message from Kaymer, Rory McIlroy and others appears to be sinking in: Don’t try to do too much, and have fun. And the term “rookie” isn’t quite the same as it was in 1999 because of the global nature of the game. There are hardly any strangers in the Ryder Cup.
“I don’t feel like everything is new,” Rafa Cabrera Bello said. “I don’t really feel like a new kid moving into a new city. I haven’t played Hazeltine before, but I’ve played in the U.S. many events and I’ve played huge events in the U.S., as well. On that part, I’m glad that those memories and those experiences are helping me to stay calm and relaxed this week.”
All that could change, of course.
McIlroy tried to talk down the importance and the pressure of the Ryder Cup going into his first experience in 2010, and the emotions he showed that week indicated that it was more than he expected. That’s what he is trying to get across to the newcomers.
“You think you know what it’s like and you think you’ve played under pressure, but you haven’t. You haven’t played under what this is going to be like,” McIlroy said. “It’s just trying to make them ready for that and trying to make sure that they are comfortable with where they are. But once you get over that hurdle, that hump of the first tee and everything that goes on with that, you’re just down to business and you’re just trying to do what you do every day of your life, which is play good golf.”