GLENEAGLES, Scotland — The American team got a dose of perspective even before the Ryder Cup began.
Captain Tom Watson invited two “Wounded Warriors” to speak to his team Tuesday night, which he referred to as a time filled with inspiration and a reminder that no matter how great the pressure will be at Gleneagles, it’s still just golf.
“The players, they went up to them and asked questions. They thanked them,” Watson said. “But it was a very sobering experience. In this cauldron of pressure, it’s great to have that. We make it a big deal, but it’s not that big a deal. It is the Ryder Cup. It is the event of golf. Yeah, there’s pressure there. But you look in perspective of what those men did ... they work for a living.
“There are people out there doing work that very few other people will do in the world.”
One of them was Noah Galloway of Birmingham, Alabama, who was on the front line of ground troops in 2003 in Iraq. Galloway lost his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee from an IED attack in Iraq in 2005. Unconscious for five days, he woke up on Christmas Eve to find out he had lost two of his limbs. Galloway rehabilitated and took part in the Marine Corps Marathon two years ago.
The other was Josh Olson of Spokane, Washington, who lost his right leg in an ambush in 2003 in Iraq. Two years later, he joined the Army Marksmanship Unit as an international rifle shooter and instructor and has earned numerous shooting accomplishments. In 2012, Olson became the first active-duty service member wounded in combat to compete in the Paralympics. He competed in two rifle events.
“Josh and Noah gave two of the best speeches that we’ve had,” Phil Mickelson said. “We’re playing a game, and we are trying to overcome challenges to succeed in a game. These two gentlemen have overcome some of the greatest challenges that any individual could deal with in life. They’re dealing with loss of limbs, they’re dealing with near-death experiences, they’re dealing with life challenges, and they’re overcoming those challenges. So we, as players, found this to be very inspirational.
“It makes the challenge of overcoming an incredibly strong European Team seem not as great a challenge.”
European captain Paul McGinley referred to Sergio Garcia as a “senior player.”
He was talking about the Ryder Cup. Garcia is only 34.
But the Spaniard is playing in his seventh Ryder Cup, having made his debut as a 19-year-old at Brookline. McGinley still remembers how exuberant Garcia was in 2002.
“He played 36 holes, and he’d come back, and there was one TV in the team room down in the corner,” McGinley said. “He would get his food, he’d go down and he’d sit with his food on his lap and he’d watch the highlights. And every time he would come on, he’d stand up and he’d tell everybody to watch the TV. ‘Watch this shot I’m about to play, watch this, watch this, what I did, watch the American, watch what he did after I did this.
“That innocence is something that will always remain with me, and that’s something that I feel such a connection with Sergio, because he was so raw back then,” McGinley said. “He still has that exuberance, not to the same level, but he still has that exuberance, which I really like about him.”
Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley won all three of their matches at Medinah two years ago and then sat out Saturday afternoon. The Americans wound up with a 10-6 lead going into Sunday before Europe staged an improbable comeback.
What if Mickelson and Bradley had played Saturday fourballs? The way they were playing, that might have given the U.S. one more point.
Mickelson later said they both were so exhausted that another match would have left him in poor shape for singles.
On Wednesday, he explained why it really didn’t matter.
He said it came down to Mickelson and Bradley going out in the second of four matches, or having Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson play in that slot. Either way, one of those teams was going to be in the second match.
Watson and Simpson played and defeated Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari, 5 and 4.
“So it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference because that was the decision,” Mickelson said. “We weren’t going to take anybody else’s place. It was whether or not Bubba and Webb were going to play or Keegan and I were going to play, and we were going to go out in the second slot, and they went out in the second slot and won. So there is absolutely no way that that had an outcome on the final event.”
RYDER CUP DONATIONS
Each American player is given $200,000 to donate to charity, except that $100,000 goes to PGA of America outreach programs.
The PGA said $38,500 from each player goes to the PGA Junior League Golf; $38,500 goes to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America; and $23,000 goes to the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship that Augusta National runs on Sunday before the Masters. The PGA of America and USGA contribute to the event.
Six of the players donated $100,000 to their foundations or charity funds.
Rickie Fowler gave $75,000 to his foundation and $25,000 to the St. Bernard Project. Zach Johnson gave $25,000 to his foundation and $75,000 to the St. Simons Athletic Association. Matt Kuchar gave $25,000 each to Camp Twin Lakes, Frederica Academy Inc., the Georgia Tech Athletic Association for golf and St. Simons Athletic Foundation. All those groups are in Georgia.
Former University High golfer Patrick Reed split his $100,000 evenly among the American Junior Golf Association, Birdies for the Brave, Fisher House Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House in Houston. Webb Simpson split his evenly among the Art Within program in Georgia and the Wake Forest Golf House Project.
Jimmy Walker still hasn’t decided where his charity money will be directed.
Keegan Bradley returned home from the Ryder Cup at Medinah and never unpacked his suitcase.
He still hasn’t.
“I don’t have the suitcase with me, but I did give it a little rub before I left home,” he said. “It’s sitting in my house. I’m hoping to head home on Monday and open it up and see what’s in there. It might be a little nasty, but it’s still sitting there.”