MEDINAH, Illinois, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Paul Lawrie watched the 2010 Ryder Cup from a television commentator’s chair while Sergio Garcia had a front-row seat as an assistant captain for the European team but neither man particularly enjoyed the view.
This week both are back where they always wanted to be, in the hot seat as playing members of the 2012 European Ryder Cup squad that will battle the United States this week for supremacy at stately Medinah Country Club.
”For me it was definitely, I want to be back on that team,“ Spaniard Garcia told reporters on Wednesday before heading out for a team practice round. ”I definitely don’t want to be back as a vice-captain.
“It was definitely a little bit of an inspiration to see your team mates playing and you not really being able to do much,” he said of the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor.
“I wasn’t able to hit a shot there. It was a good experience. Difficult but it was good.”
While the memory of Seve Ballesteros, Europe’s charismatic talisman who died last year from brain cancer, will be a prime source of motivation this week, the holders can also draw plenty of inspiration from Garcia and Lawrie, who battled their way back on to the team against long odds.
Their determination to get back into the biennial competition as players underscores European passion for the Ryder Cup.
Scot Lawrie, 43, admitted he was in the midst of winding down his career while Garcia, with his game unravelling, had openly contemplated quitting the sport until their competitive fires were fanned watching Europe beat the U.S. two years ago.
Standing on the sidelines, both were struck by how badly they wanted to be back on the frontlines and they committed themselves to rebuilding their careers.
”Roundabout Celtic Manor time, I wasn’t putting the time in that I should have been putting in,“ said Lawrie. ”I had let my game and myself kind of go a little bit.
”I was sitting there talking about guys hitting shots in a tournament that I wanted to play in again. So you knuckle down and you do the work that’s needed to be done.
“I think commentating there was the biggest factor. You realise how big a tournament this is. You realise how huge it is.”
It has been 13 years since Garcia and Lawrie made their Ryder Cup debuts at Brookline in Massachusetts.
Garcia would be part of the next four Ryder Cups, building a fine record of 14-6-4, until he failed to gain a spot on the 2010 team due to poor form and accepted Colin Montgomerie’s invitation to serve as an assistant captain.
It was a humbling and eye-opening experience for the fiery Spaniard, who used it as motivation to turn his game around and secured an automatic spot on the 2012 European team by winning his eighth PGA Tour title at last month’s Wyndham Championship.
”I barely remember; Alzheimer‘s,“ Garcia laughed as he reflected on his last Ryder Cup appearance in 2008. ”I think it’s different, 2008 obviously was a great year for me.
”Unfortunately that Ryder Cup wasn’t my best. The week before, I got sick and I was on antibiotics and stuff, so my energy levels weren’t great.
“This year it’s different; I feel good. I feel pretty good about my game.”
Lawrie had been off the Ryder Cup radar for nearly a decade, going from 2002 until 2011 without a European Tour victory.
But the Scotsman flashed his old form this season, winning twice to also earn automatic selection. With his confidence at an all-time high, he already has his sights set on the 2014 Ryder Cup that will be played in Scotland.
”It’s been a great effort,“ praised world number one Rory McIlroy, who was just 10-years-old when Lawrie played his first Ryder Cup. ”He’s played very, very well the last couple of years.
”I think he said yesterday when he was in here that going to the 2010 Ryder Cup really inspired him again to work hard and try and make this team.
“He’s been very consistent. His goal this year was to make the Ryder Cup team and he has.” (Reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)