MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - Nicolas Colsaerts, the only rookie on Europe’s Ryder Cup team, said he was amazed at how intense the event is, but might look across the battle lines to stay relaxed.
The longest driver among all 24 men in the matches between the best golfers of Europe and the United States, the 29-year-old became the first Belgian to reach the Ryder Cup after being tabbed as a wildcard pick by captain Jose Maria Olazabal.
“It’s really special. It’s far more intense already of anything I could think of,” Colsaerts said on Wednesday. “I’ve been dreaming of playing in this for probably 20 years. It’s far more bigger than everything I could imagine.”
Colsaerts, winner of this season’s World Match Play Championship, said seeing the backstage focus of the European team impressed him, but he might be calmed by the easy-going flair of U.S. assistant Fred Couples, his boyhood golfing idol.
”There was only one guy that I really liked when I was young. It was Fred Couples,“ Colsaerts said. ”So funny enough, he is an assistant captain this week.
“Freddie just always seemed to be a cool cat, and the way he walks and the way he played. I always loved the laziness about him. Funny enough, I think I walk kind of the same way.”
Colsaerts, whose great-grandfather represented Belgium in basketball and water polo in the Olympics and whose father played top-level field hockey in Belgium, has been around sports all his life but never experienced anything like the Ryder Cup.
“You realize how big of a deal it is with how many people are travelling with us, how many people are taking care of us in the team room. Just listening to all of the other players, as well,” he said.
”We have a lot of very experienced players in the team, so when you get to hear discussions between Sergio (Garcia), Luke (Donald), (Lee) Westwood, (Ian) Poulter, Olazábal...it’s certainly discussions that you don’t really get a chance to be involved in as a regular human being.
“In that way, I feel the intensity building up very quickly. And you realize how much it really means to those guys and how much they are very hungry after it. ”
The reaction off the course has also been striking.
”I was down in Spain five days last week, and every person you go by, you really have the sense that they are backing you up,“ Colsaerts said. ”You know you’re playing for the flag and you know you’re playing for the team.
“You realize how much it means to everyone. I never really thought it meant that much to every 15, 20 handicapper back home.”
Editing by Frank Pingue