Hi everyone and welcome to the latest of my Blogs, and the last one of 2017. They say that time flies when you are having fun and, with The Ryder Cup itself now only nine months away, they must be right!
As we head towards 2018, a lot of media outlets are pulling together their reviews of the year and therefore I have been quite busy lately with cameras and microphones in front of me. One question I am regularly asked is how I think the team is shaping up, and I always answer that one in the same way; namely that it is easy to get ahead of yourself. The qualification process is long and there's so much can happen over the summer that we really need to wait and see. However, the end of this year did produce a lot of positive signs from players such as Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Jon Rahm, who have all put themselves in strong positions. So, I'm happy with what is in front of me at the moment, but when we get to April, May, and June next year, I can then actually start getting into more detail.
Proud and humbled……
As well as the review season, this is also the award season and I was genuinely humbled last week to be guest of honour at the PGA’s annual lunch at the spectacular Grosvenor House Hotel in London, where I was awarded the PGA Recognition Award for my contribution to the game. When you are a player, you are so concentrated on what that involves, that you sometimes don’t realise how many people you reach by simply playing the game. Therefore, when somebody, or an organisation such as the PGA, recognises you for that and for what you’ve done over your career, it can come as a bit of a surprise, but a very pleasant one at that! It was a wonderful occasion and the award presented to me will sit proudly in my home alongside my other trophies.
I have said before how much I am enjoying the journey of European captain and one of the most enjoyable things is learning more about the players as people, learning more about their personalities, and learning what makes them perform to their best. That's a large part of the process for me as, in that respect, golf is different to most sports. I’m not a football manager or a rugby coach and these guys are not my players. I'm watching them from afar and therefore it is interesting when you have conversations with them, trying to piece together what is going on in their heads. It's a fascinating process and something I am learning more about every single day out on Tour.
In the last Blog I wrote about my pride at being named Captain of the European Team for next month’s EurAsia Cup in Malaysia, so it seems only right that I devote part of this one to talk about how delighted I am with the team we are taking to the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur. There is no doubt that in Cabrera-Bello, Casey, Dunne, Fisher, Fitzpatrick, Fleetwood, Hatton, Levy, Noren, Pieters, Stenson and Wiesberger we have a strong team but great thing for me is that I will get to spend some time with all of them and with the younger players in particular, in a team environment. Golf is an individual sport and they are individual sportsmen but when they come into that team-room environment it is a little bit different and the hierarchy evolves with some senior players showing the way while the younger players will lean on them a little bit. As well as spending quality time with the players, the EurAsia Cup will also give them a little bit of a different perspective in how they see me. Day in day out they see me as a player, inside the ropes, playing the game with them. Now I am in a different role and that week will give me the chance to build relationships that might well stand me in good stead in France next September.
Talking of the EurAsia Cup, that will be the next time I will actually be ‘at work’ at a golf course, as professional golf now takes a bit of a break. Related to that, another question I am asked occasionally, is what Christmas is like for me and am I able to switch off? To be honest, the answer to that is, not really! As Captain, there are constant thoughts and ideas swirling around in my head and Christmas gives me the chance to sit down at home, reflect, and get a lot of these things down on paper. Over the course of the year I am constantly making little notes here and there, and so the Festive Period gives me a chance to pull everything together and keep developing my plan for The Ryder Cup itself. That will, of course, be affected by players’ opinions and the thoughts of the Vice Captains and people around the team as we get closer to the event, but before then I will formulate a plan that can work and be adaptable, and that’s what I’ll be mapping out over the next few weeks.
No time for nerves…..
I have also been asked occasionally whether I’m nervous about the job of European Ryder Cup Captain and task ahead? As I alluded to above, my brain is so constantly active that it doesn’t really allow me to get nervous to be honest, because I’m always planning and looking at different scenarios. I think the only time I might get nervous is when we get closer to the actual match itself and I begin to wonder if I’ve done everything I could have done in the preparation? Are we ready to go out there as a team, and are we ready to go out there and perform? Obviously, come Friday morning, once all the talking has stopped, I am also going to be handing over to 12 guys to go out there and play their golf and that is where it is out of my hands. But there is a lot of work to come before we get to that point and it is up to me to put them in a frame of mind and in a place where they can deliver their best.
Merry Christmas everybody……!
Finally, all it leaves me to say now is, thank you for reading my monthly Blogs so far and they will return in 2018 when I will reflect on the EurAsia Cup and continue my look ahead to Paris in September. May I wish every single one of you, and all your families, a very Merry Christmas and a happy and successful New Year.
Until next time……….