Team unity Faldo's top priority at Valhalla

Europe’s team spirit has underpinned their dominance in five of the last six Ryder Cups and captain Nick Faldo has made that a priority for their title defence this week.

In a symbolic but meaningful move on the first day of official practice at Valhalla Golf Club on Tuesday, the six-time Major winner assembled his team in a circle of unity on the first tee.

“It was a good moment,” Faldo told reporters. “Everybody shared a few little thoughts. As Europe has always proved, the team spirit is instantly there.

“It was great that Sergio [Garcia] joined in, Lee Westwood joined in, Padraig [Harrington] as well.
We talked and we had a chat. It went a lot further than I expected.”

Faldo, a veteran of 11 Ryder Cups as a player, wanted his team to visualise hitting their first shots of the week at an event where the pressure is much more intense than in any strokeplay tournament.

“It was my idea to go down and I enjoyed that, to see it,” he said. “I was very big on visualisation. You can visualise that first tee shot and off you go.

“I’m delighted the guys took it more than two steps further. We really had a good little chat for five, 10 minutes. It was really productive and the team are really tight together.”

While the United States team practised in foursomes at Valhalla on Tuesday morning, Faldo sent his players out in threesomes to get more accustomed on and around the greens.

Balls everywhere
“I’ve always personally found that when you’re doing a lot of chipping or putting around the green, four is a crowd,” he said. “There’s always balls going everywhere.

“We decided collectively that: ‘Yeah, let’s go and have a look at the golf course, get the feel of things’. They can chip and putt and test the sand, so they’re more than happy doing that [in threesomes].”

Spaniard Garcia has been one of the most inspirational figures for Europe at the last four Ryder Cups and Faldo expects more of the same from the world number five this week.

“He brings a lot of passion to this team,” he said.

“Obviously match play is different and he gets fired up. He’s fired up on the golf course and he’s great off the golf course, so he is a key member to the team.”

Garcia has a win-loss-half record of 14-4-2 at the Ryder Cup, including a perfect eight out of eight victories in foursomes matches.—Reuters

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