Heading into Sunday at the Tour Championship, there was scope for an ideal European scenario.
That was Justin Rose would win the event at East Lake and Rory McIlroy would finish prominently enough to claim the $10m FedEx playoff prize. Neither, of course, came to pass because of the interventions of Brandt Snedeker and a troubled final round for McIlroy.
The Northern Irishman enjoyed a day off on Monday after insisting that the dynamic of the Ryder Cup will briskly remove any lingering sense of disappointment. "I'm looking forward to meeting up with all the guys, to getting back into that team atmosphere and team spirit," McIlroy said. "It should be good fun. I'm just going to go there and enjoy it and try and help team Europe out as much as I can."
McIlroy insisted he will have enough energy left to cope with the rigours of Medinah. Which for José María Olazábal is just as well; Europe's captain will rely on the 23-year-old to a heavy extent, despite his tender years.
In truth McIlroy was due a relatively lean weekend given his stunning spell of success since the US PGA Championship. Olazábal, clearly, prefers that it came in Atlanta instead of at the Ryder Cup.
Snedeker flew to Illinois filled with confidence following the biggest win of his career. He now lies 10th in the world rankings but Rose's rise to No5 means Europe will have four of the top five players this weekend. "I'm not under any illusion of being calm," Snedeker said of his Ryder Cup debut. "I know it's going to be a very pressure-packed week. But I played against the best players in the world over 72 holes at the Tour Championship and beat them. I am playing the best golf of my career."
If the USA were seeking extra comfort, it may have arrived via Lee Westwood, who finished last in the Tour Championship, where he failed to score better than 72 having battled the effects of heat stroke. "I have played well at Medinah in the past," the Englishman said. "It's a different type of grass, different type of green [to East Lake]. I struggled to see the lines on the greens in Atlanta – I don't play on them very often so I had to get used to that. Medinah will be completely different."
He also played down fears voiced by Colin Montgomerie, the 2010 European captain, that the Medinah crowd could become overly boisterous. "Chicago is a great sporting town – they get right behind their teams," Westwood added. "I don't see this being any different. You know you are against the crowd as well as the US team when you play in the States but that is what makes it more satisfying when you come out as the winners."
Tiger Woods, meanwhile, has offered some straightforward advice to the four rookies in the USA team. "Just go out there and win your point, period," said the former world No1. "The golf doesn't change, just because the atmosphere is slightly different – it's still the same. Put the ball on the fairway, put the ball on the green, hole every putt, and get your point."
Woods is the one USA playing member who has a close association with Olazábal, struck up during tutorial sessions in practice rounds for the Masters.
"I got to play with Sevé Ballesteros at Augusta, and for me that's when my friendship with Ollie started," Woods explained. "He was so nice, the same as Sevé. They were great, showing me how to hit shots around the greens. Back then Augusta was very different around the greens. You had to hit shots, and they were running through all the repertoire.
"Over the years I've picked his brain so many times about shots around the greens and how he played it and why the bounce does this and that and the body positioning and the hands and all these different things. We've had just a great friendship."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Ed McDonald
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