Ryder Cup veteran predicts another tight tussle

European Ryder Cup team captain Jose Maria Olazabal
European Ryder Cup team captain Jose Maria Olazabal
Harry Ellis. Picture: PA Images

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It WAS 21 years ago when Steve Richardson found himself propelled on to golf’s biggest stage of all.

And he still remembers the incomparable nervous tension of playing in a Ryder Cup.

Learning his trade at Lee-on-the-Solent Golf Club and on the back of a stellar European Tour season, Richardson was 25 years old when he made the 1991 showpiece at Kiawah Island.

He teamed up with Mark James to take two points from their three matches, before he went down to a 2&1 loss to Corey Pavin in the Sunday singles.

It’s a match that will forever be remembered for Bernhard Langer’s missed six-footer on the last hole that would have stolen a tie for Europe.

Also, the raucous atmosphere that spilled over from mutual respect to a win-at-all-costs mentality and the infamous War on the Shore tag.

Richardson is rightly proud of his part in golf’s history books.

He believes some players thrive on the pressure while others wilt.

And he is predicting something similar in what he expects will be another tight tussle when it all kicks off in Medinah, Chicago, tomorrow.

Richardson said: ‘I still remember some of it very clearly, but it was 21 years ago now.

‘I just remember how I was just full of adrenaline the whole time.

‘In normal tournaments you might be a bit edgy and get a bit of adrenaline here and there, but the Ryder Cup is like that the whole time.

‘It’s the only time I have never felt relaxed on a golf course at any point.

‘Normally, I might be a bit nervous at the start or at the end, but for a good period of the round I would feel settled and comfortable. You can’t do that at a Ryder Cup.

‘The crowds are super-charged. They are different to normal golfing crowds – there is so much passion and excitement everywhere.

‘It’s the most nervous I have ever felt playing golf in my life.

‘The really top players in the world can handle that pressure.

‘It can bring out the best in some players who get inspired by it.

‘Certain players will feed off that energy and I’m sure we will see some amazing shots again.’

Richardson, whose Europe side went down by just one point in their 1991 encounter, is expecting a similar scoreline this time.

He said: ‘I think it will be incredibly close but I would have the USA to win by one point.

‘Obviously, I want our boys to win but I think home advantage could just tip it in their favour.

‘They’ve probably got more players in top form but we’ve got Rory McIlroy who is the best player in the world at the moment.

‘The Americans will be out to beat him that bit more and he will have to deal with that extra expectation, just as Tiger Woods has had to do.

‘Even though Rory is very young, he can be a leader to the rest of the team.

‘I’m sure José María Olazábal will be a great captain.

‘He’s very calm and an absolute gentleman off the course but on it, he’s a very intense competitor.’