Over-40 Westwood, Garcia could be Ryder Cup danger men
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Kohler (United States) (AFP) –
England's Lee Westwood and Spain's Sergio Garcia, part of Europe's largest 40-something Ryder Cup contingent in 60 years, could be danger men, three-time major winner Jordan Spieth warned Tuesday.
Garcia, 41, was sixth at the BMW Championship and 14th at the Tour Championship last month to end a solid US PGA campaign while Westwood, 48, had back-to-back runner-up efforts at Bay Hill and the Players Championship last March.
"The fact they both have been playing the caliber of golf they've been playing this year to make this team with the experience they have makes them very dangerous," US standout Spieth said.
"I mean, you step on the first tee and you know you're going to play two of the best players in the world."
Westwood will be the oldest player to represent Europe since Christy O'Connor Sr. in 1973.
Together with 45-year-old Ian Poulter and 44-year-old Paul Casey, Westwood and Garcia comprise the largest over-40 European Ryder Cup group since there were five in 1961.
"It's crazy. They bring so much history into this event," said 13th-ranked Norwegian Viktor Hovland. "Those guys are the reason why this tournament is what it is, because they've brought so much passion and blood, sweat, and tears into this event that it makes it so much more special to be on the same team as them.
"When you put it into perspective like that, it's really cool."
Hovland is already learning from the maestros.
"Time and time again when they show up to this week they deliver every single time," Hovland said. "I sat a couple weeks ago and just watched highlights of Poults and Sergio and Westy on YouTube in the Ryder Cup, and it was just so cool to see all the clutch moments they've had and just kind of how they handled everything, because it's a big pressure."
Westwood recalled his joy at watching Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer in Ryder Cups before his own 1997 debut.
"When I did come round to playing it, it gave me a real feel for that this was the pinnacle of team sport and nothing really compares to the Ryder Cup," Westwood said. "It's very difficult to make Ryder Cup teams and very special when you do."
Asked the secret of his success, a record 25.5 Cup points, Garcia credited his ability to meld with partners.
"I've obviously done some good things myself, but I've just been able to gel nicely with all the partners that I've had, and we've had an amazing time," he said.
"The main goal is the team. You kind of put yourself aside for this week and just enjoy it with the rest of your teammates and everyone around."
- Iconic Spaniards -
Garcia recalled being invited inside the ropes with idol Ballesteros at the 1995 Ryder Cup when he was only a teen.
"We were talking a little bit and he was explaining things to me. So that was obviously amazing," Garcia said. "Then I remember walking to the international pavilion and saw some of the European crowds just singing, and the energy that I felt I have to be a part of this at some point in my life."
Now Harrington is pondering a pairing of Garcia and top-ranked Jon Rahm, perhaps a Spanish duo to rival the Ryder Cup intensity of Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal.
"It's hard to believe that you could have the same energy as Seve and José over the years," Harrington said.
"They are iconic when it comes to the Ryder Cup and Europe. I wouldn't ask anybody to live up to that. But if they came close, it would be nice."
© 2021 AFP