For two years of build-up and two days of preview press conferences, the overwhelming theme of this week’s Ryder Cup has seemed to be fun and mutual respect.
But after Ian Poulter questioned: “How can you can be great mates with somebody, but, boy, do you want to kill them in Ryder Cup?” on Wednesday, United States captain Davis Love admitted it is inevitable that he and opposite number Jose Maria Olazabal will clash at some point.
With more and more European players basing themselves in America – only three team members were with Olazabal on the ‘team’ flight from London to Chicago on Monday – Lee Westwood concedes there is “definitely less of a them-and-us type thing” now between the players.
Previous contests have already seen both teams socialising together once the match is concluded, a trend Love stressed would continue on Sunday evening at Medinah, regardless of the outcome. However, anyone fearing the biennial contest was in danger of losing its famous edge should not be too concerned ahead of today’s opening foursomes and fourballs.
“It’s intense,” said Love. “Do we want to pummel them? Yes we do. We want to win.
“You know what, Olly and I will go toe-to-toe at some point because it’s intense. It’ll be about carts going over a bridge or he has more carts than me or something.
“I remember Tom (Kite) with Seve (Ballesteros) once when Tom’s ball was clearly on the green, but Seve asked about it (whether it could be marked) and I went in and said ‘OK boys, back off’. It was the way it was handled.
“Olly and I will get testy, but it will be respectful and for the crowd to be fair is the goal.”
Whether the crowd is fair remains to be seen, with all 24 players expecting a sport-mad city like Chicago to provide raucous galleries eager for the home side to regain the trophy and claim only a second US win in six attempts.