Few scenes in sports are like the first tee at the Ryder Cup on Friday morning. Somebody asked two-time major champion and U.S. team member Jordan Spieth to “paint a picture” of what it felt and sounded and smelled like his first time in Scotland two years ago.
“It’s funny,” he said. “I actually asked for a painted picture of that, and I have it in my kitchen/living room.”
He commissioned the painting that captures the moment just after he hit his first tee shot at Gleneagles, with the Scottish countryside as the backdrop.
“It’s the main piece of artwork in my house,” said Spieth, who turned 23 in July and has won nearly $26 million already in his career. “It’s a beautiful painting. I don’t have anything around the house of myself except for that, and it’s special to me.”
He called that tee shot and standing on the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club when he won the 2015 Masters the most exciting moments of his golf life.
“We didn’t win the Ryder Cup, I didn’t make a putt to win the match there,” Spieth said. “It was just that feeling. You hear the echoes of the chants through the Scottish hill country back to the range and you know you’re about to walk into an away game, which we don’t ever really experience.
“You put the tee in the ground, your hand is shaking, you’re trying to get the ball on to the tee. Hopefully this time, having done it before, comes a little easier. But I hit a great shot, probably the best 3-wood I ever hit.
“You asked me to paint a picture. I asked for the same thing, and I try and look at it every day.”
Stenson’s drive for five
Reigning British Open champion Henrik Stenson has played only one full tournament since winning a silver medal at the Rio Olympics in August because of pain in his right knee, which was surgically repaired last winter. But he declared himself ready Wednesday, saying, “I feel like I’m up for a lot of golf, unless the knee tells me otherwise,” he said.
Europe captain Darren Clarke said the same. “Henrik has assured me if I would ask him to play five times, he is fit enough to play five times,” Clarke said.
Leave home without it
Somebody asked Justin Rose if he was asked to bring his Olympic gold medal to the team room this week for European pride.
“And a way of annoying Henrik Stenson,” he said, laughing. “Danny [Willett] doesn’t have the green jacket in the team room. Rory doesn’t have the FedEx Cup in the team room. This is about the Ryder Cup, and that little gold trophy is enough for us all this week.”
Ole, ole, ole
The Timberwolves’ Ricky Rubio has met countryman and Europe star Sergio Garcia a couple of times but knows him well enough to make this Ryder Cup prediction: “He’s going to win it.”
Rubio said he might attend Friday’s play, if his legs are willing after three days of two-a-day, training camp practices. “I will try to go to wherever it is and watch it,” he said.
• The Ryder Cup home-team captain has say in how the course is set up, but Davis Love III said that starting last Sunday he turned over pin positions, length of rough and other matters to PGA of America chief championships officer Kerry Haigh.
• Gifts are a big part of Ryder Cup tradition. Love has presented players with a silversmith’s work reminiscent of the Kentucky Derby’s mint-julep cups. Friends of Jimmy Walker made them. Phil Mickelson gave teammates Ryder Cup dog tags with their names engraved.
• Clarke brought the magician Dynamo to entertain his team Tuesday night. “Before I knew it, I was back in bed,” Stenson said, “and I didn’t even walk to my room.”
• U.S. rookie Brooks Koepka started his pro career playing the European Tour in 2012. “I’ve known those guys longer than I have the guys in the States.”
• American soul singer Aloe Blacc and Twin Cities-based Sounds of Blackness will perform at Thursday’s opening ceremony.
• The PGA of America lists Hazeltine National at 7,628 yards for the Ryder Cup. But it won’t play nearly that long after tees are moved up and there is an attempt to conjure birdies and eagles.
Staff writer Kent Youngblood contributed to this report.