Chris Wood secured a place in Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup team largely thanks to a sensational victory at Wentworth. He talks to Nick Bonfield about European
team spirit, Darren Clarke’s leadership and more
Englishman Chris Wood discusses his upcoming Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine…
Take us through the significance of winning the BMW PGA…
I think for a European outside the Majors, Wentworth is the one you want to win. I’d been going there to watch since the age of 12 and I’d just be overawed by the crowds and how immaculate it all was. I just wanted to play in the tournament – that was my dream when I was a youngster. So to win it, especially with my fiancé, parents and friends there, was pretty special – certainly not something I’ll forget.
Did you allow yourself to think about what the victory meant in terms of The Ryder Cup?
I did, because if anyone tells you they aren’t thinking about qualifying, they are lying. It’s what you dream of when you’re on the range hitting balls as a junior. You’re talking rubbish if you say you aren’t thinking about it, so I just openly admit that I am. I shared a house with Jamie Donaldson at the US Open and we had a chat about The Ryder Cup one night. He said that it was phenomenal – on a completely different level.
What are Darren Clarke’s best attributes?
He’ll have the players’ support, 110 per cent. He’s great with them and he’s full of passion and determination. I see a little bit of myself in him. He’s a workhorse, so he’ll work tirelessly to get everything spot on. And he knows what makes players tick. Obviously he’s been there numerous times himself. He’s probably one of the four or five players out here in his era who I really look up to. I just look at him and think he has so much experience to offer, and he’s open for you to go and speak to him.
How would you assess his captaincy at the EurAsia Cup and what was he like behind closed doors?
He played a lot of videos in the team room in the evening – a lot of Seve stuff and a lot of Ryder Cup stuff. There was also music blasting to the videos and it certainly got every player’s attention. The whole week was very much about the fact that some of the guys in the team room would make The Ryder Cup, and Darren wanted to use it as an opportunity to show us what The Ryder Cup is all about.
It was also a great trial run for Darren, giving him the chance to experience captaining a team – going round on a buggy, giving talks in the evening, speaking in the morning, selecting his pairs, etcetera. It was an invaluable experience for him. It was all about winning, as The Ryder Cup is. We wanted to pummel them. He really instilled that mindset. That’s the captain’s role – to get everyone up for it and in the right frame of mind.
There is clearly a great support network when it comes to the European Ryder Cup team – something the US seems to lack. Any ideas why?
The European Tour has more of a family feel, and I imagine once you’re in that Ryder Cup circle, you all come together as one. But you’ve built the bonds over the years – it doesn’t just happen in one week, like maybe it does for the Americans. On the European Tour, we all eat dinner together and sit together in the players’ lounge. In the States, players tend to travel more with family and don’t spend as much time with their peers. It’s hard for me to say because I haven’t played over there full time, but that appears to be the case. They just don’t seem to gel as well as a team. It’s really interesting.
What are your thoughts on Davis Love?
I thought he did a great job at Medinah. I mean, what can you do when something like that happens on Sunday? I think he has the players’ support, which is probably the first thing you need as a captain. Like Darren, he still plays, so he’s in touch with a lot of the players and he still sees what’s going on out on tour.
Does The Ryder Cup need an American victory?
I know what you’re saying, but The Ryder Cup is huge for Europe. We’re on a brilliant run and have had a succession of really strong teams. I think the Americans have hit the panic button a little bit with their ‘task force’. They are certainly making a big deal out of it. It’s strange, because they obviously have world-class players. I think they are trying to find what comes naturally to Europe – that team spirit, that family bond. It almost seems as if they are trying to force something that can’t be forced. The US has had its golden era, why can’t it be ours? Why can’t we win six or seven in a row?