How should a Ryder Cup rookie handle this week? Here’s what these legends say

Playing in the Ryder Cup as a rookie might be one of the more terrifying experiences in golf.

The crowds are louder. You see every single shot your opponent hits right in front of you. And the weight of your entire country/continent rides on your shoulders with every swing.

The Ryder Cup is truly unlike any other event in golf and the eight rookies at this year’s matches in Rome are in for it when the week kicks off Friday.

At a recent sponsor event, GOLF got the opportunity to ask several Ryder Cup legends what advice they might give to a Ryder Cup rookie. You can watch their answers in the video above.

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Despite being on opposing sides for the 1987 Ryder Cup matches at Muirfield Village, Larry Mize and Jose Maria Olazabal both agree the first-timers should slow down and enjoy the moment.

“Sometimes difficult to have fun when the pressure is that high, right?” concurred 10-time Ryder cupper and former European captain Bernhard Langer. “It’s not like 99% of the tournaments you play in and some can handle it better than others.”

The biggest surface difference between the Ryder Cup and any other tournament is of course the team aspect. For some rookies like Brian Harman, who is 14 years removed from his previous U.S. national team appearance at the Walker Cup, the team aspect could make for a challenging adjustment.

Five-time U.S. Ryder Cup team member Mark O’Meara said that can actually be an advantage, however.

“Golf is such an individual game,” O’Meara said. “And my advice to a Ryder Cup rookie would be, you know, look, you don’t have to feel like you have to take on all the responsibility yourself because it is a team event. All you can do is go out there and play to your natural ability.”

However, Colin Montgomerie, an eight-time member of the European team and the winning captain of the 2010 matches, knows just how difficult that is.

“I would just say don’t try too hard,” he said. “Just let it happen. Let your golf speak for itself. Easier said than done. The hands tend to get a little bit tighter, obviously on the club, the pucks just — you know? If you try too hard at this game, we all know that is a failure due to happen.”

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There’s one thing that separates the good Ryder Cuppers from the not-so-good ones, according to Hale Irwin: Wanting to win.

“I say that not facetiously,” Irwin said. “I mean, truly want it not just, ‘Hey, I’m on the Ryder Cup team and look at me and I’ve had a great year.’ No, who cares? And you may not win, but that doesn’t mean you don’t try your best.”

It might even be tough just to get off that 1st tee, especially with the Colosseum-like buildout around it this year, but Tom Lehman said it was all downhill from there.

“You got to slow your breathing down, you know, just all the basics stuff, which sounds so cliche, but it’s really true,” the three-time player and 2006 U.S. captain said. “But after you get that first shot, you know, you’re pretty much on your way.

“Lacking in experience is not that big a deal.”

The responses were almost endless from all of the Ryder Cup alums. To see all of their answers, be sure to watch the video above.

Jack Hirsh Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at