Pavin famously wore a camouflage cap while playing at Kiawah in 1991 to show support for troops in the first Gulf War. He turned to Maj. Dan Rooney, a decorated F-16 fighter pilot who also happens to be a PGA of America golf professional, to speak to his team.
“It wasn’t so much a motivational speech,” Pavin said, “but maybe a little more awareness of what’s happening around the world and what’s going on and how, in a military sense, how team unity and accountability to each other is very important.”
Bubba Watson, whose father served in Vietnam, was especially moved by Rooney’s speech.
“We all want to win, but at the same time, we are representing our country,” Watson said. “He just talked about … the Stars and Stripes and what a big honor it is to put that on and how we should be thankful for what we do.”
Not to be outdone, Montgomerie placed a call to former European star Seve Ballesteros, who is battling brain cancer.
“That was very motivational, very passionate, and also very sad to hear him, to hear the way he is,” Monty said. “But still, the passion is very, very strong within Seve for us as a team, and he just wishes that he could be here.”
Ballesteros was diagnosed with a brain tumor nearly two years ago. He had hoped to be at St. Andrews in July for the British Open, but his doctors advised him against making the trip.
The Ryder Cup was ruled out as well, but Ballesteros did manage to spend about 10 minutes with the Europeans via a speakerphone set up in the team room.
“That was a real inspiration, especially for the rookies in the team, to speak to Seve, and Seve speak to them,” said Montgomerie, who played in three Ryder Cups with Ballesteros and on the 1997 team in which the Spaniard served as captain. “I’ve never had anyone as passionate about sport and golf as him.”
Ballesteros is credited with launching a new Ryder Cup era in 1979, when the European roster was expanded to include players from the continent as well as Britain. Ballesteros went on to become an eight-time member of Europe’s team, breaking a decades grip Americans held on the event.
In 1997, he took over as captain and guided the Europeans to a rousing upset of the Americans at the first Ryder Cup held in Spain.
“I think it was only right to get Seve on the phone,” Montgomerie said. “Seve is our Ryder Cup and always will be. It’s always nice to not ever feel that Seve is forgotten by us or by European golf in any way, shape or form.”
Come Friday morning, though, it will all be up to the players.
That’s when the Europeans will count on Harrington to show he was a worthy pick. He won’t be able to blame the added pressure of playing at home, which clearly affected Harrington at Ireland’s K Club in 2006, or say he’s burned out by the demands of winning two straight majors, which was the state of his game heading into Valhalla in 2008.
Based on the way he’s been practicing, Montgomerie is expecting big things from his most disputed selection.