With only a matter of hours to go before the first shots are hit in this year’s Ryder Cup match, the excitement levels are cranking up considerably.
However, if the butterflies in your belly are going ten to the dozen, spare a thought for how the players who will actually hit those shots are feeling.
The first tee of the Ryder Cup is, by common consent, unique in golf. Fans sing, shout and cheer their players on, players who carry not just the regular, week-in-week-out burden of their own expectations but also those of their 11 teammates and, more broadly, their compatriots.
It’s pressure on a whole other scale. Just ask Paul Lawrie. The Aberdonian hit the first shot of the 1999 match at Brookline – just weeks after winning the Open Championship – and, as he told us, is was unlike anything he had every experienced before.
“When you hit the opening shot, you know all about it,” - Paul Lawrie
“I’m always a little nervous on the first tee in every round I play,” revealed Lawrie. “But as soon as I get my ball away, I’m fine. The nerves disappear.
“In the Ryder Cup, all those feelings are magnified by about 100. When I played with Monty at Brookline, I hit the first shot of the match but, on the first tee, I physically couldn’t stop shaking. My hands, my body, everything. It was the strangest feeling.
“I didn’t have that in the play-off for the Open just a couple of months earlier. There, I felt relaxed, composed, in control, focused and sure that I was going to hit good shots. At Brookline, I honestly felt as though I was going to miss the ball. No joke.
“In the end, I hit not too bad a shot. I just pushed it a wee bit but, believe me, I was chuffed to bits with it.”
As well as Brookline, Lawrie also featured in the 2012 match at Medinah. Even so, the memories of that first tee shot 15 years ago remain fresh in his mind.
“When you hit the opening shot, you know all about it,” he said. “Your teammates are on the tee, your opponents are on the tee, all the captains and vice-captains are there, there’s a huge gallery, and you know fine well how many people are sitting at home watching it on television. You are completely conscious of that.
“But you have to give yourself a shake and say, ‘Hey, I’m a professional golfer, this is what I do.’ Just get up there, go through your routine and hit your shot. I mean, I was never going to miss it. But’s that the feeling that first tee gives you. It’s weird. Very, very weird.”
Read more: Find out who we think will be paired together on Friday morning
Should Paul Lawrie have been a vice-captain?
With his vast experience on the tour, as a major winner, as a two-time Ryder Cup player and of Gleneagles, would Paul Lawrie have been an asset for Paul McGinley to have in his backroom team? Leave your thoughts in our ‘Comments’ section below.