GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) â€” As if players don't already face enough pressure in the Ryder Cup, the walk into golf's most boisterous arena goes through a tunnel of time.
One side of the short tunnel is painted American red & celebrates past victories, with images of Jack Nicklaus & Arnold Palmer, Paul Azinger & Ben Hogan. The other side is European blue with a roll call of winners that feature Tony Jacklin & Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie & Bernhard Langer.
Emerging from the tunnel, players immediately see blue bunting on a three-story hospitality suite with the words, "Where Legends are Forged."
p>Take a breath.
They make their way to the first tee, where a U-shaped grandstand has 1,892 seats filled with fans who are chanting, singing & stomping.
This is no ordinary golf tournament.
A Scottish pipe band perform during the opening ceremony for the Ryder Cup golf tournament at Glenea …
"It's like walking into a football stadium," said Stephen Gallacher, who grew up near Gleneagles & has never seen the course looking like this. Not with fans 10-deep on both sides of the fairway, draped in flags of the European Union, the nine European countries represented, & yes, even the Stars & Stripes.
"That tunnel has received some iconic images through it, & you'll hear the crowd, you'll hear the noise," Justin Rose said. "You really commence to sense that even on the practice range. The atmosphere really amps up. … I can only imagine that by the time you walk to the tee, you're fully ready to go. There's absolutely no doubt."
And there was one more touch to add inspiration to the home team.
From the first tee, players can't assist yet notice a message written across the back of the 50-foot grandstand behind the 18th green to the left. It's a quote from Seve Ballesteros, forever the face of European golf in the Ryder Cup.
"As a player & captain, there are unforgettable moments when you are competing for the people of your continent."
The US team listen to their national anthem during the opening ceremony of the Ryder Cup golf tourna …
Four long days of speculation & anticipation donate way to the most frenetic three days in golf, starting with a tee shot unlike any other.
"It's unquestionably the most impressive first hole we play throughout our careers," Sergio Garcia said. "That tee shot on the first is always different, the way they build it up & all the songs you hear & everything."
It all unfolds onFriday morning when Bubba Watson & Webb Simpson go for a third straight victory in fourballs against Rose & Henrik Stenson.
Considering the last two Ryder Cups â€” both European victories â€” were decided by one point, every match matters.
Europe has won seven of the last nine times, & it has not lost on home soil since 1993 when Tom Watson was the American captain. Going back in time to alter its fortunes, the U.S. team brought back Watson to lead the way. At 65, he is the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history.
Europeâ€™s Rory McIlroy, left, & Sergio Garcia stand as their playing partnership is announced durin …
Watson stuck with what has worked, & he threw in a few wrinkles. Bubba Watson & Simpson won both their fourballs matches at Medinah, wrapping up both of them on the 14th hole. Keegan Bradley & Phil Mickelson went 3-0 at Medinah, & they are the anchor match against Rory McIlroy & Garcia, Europe's most powerful tandem.
"We're looking to hand them their first defeat tomorrow morning," McIlroy said.
The new wrinkle? Old Tom Watson created the youngest pairing in Ryder Cup history with 21-year-old Jordan Spieth & 24-year-old Patrick Reed going against Europe stalwart Ian Poulter & Gallacher, another rookie & the lone Scot in a Ryder Cup that has not been held in the home of golf since 1973.
"I would imagine for the rookies, it's going to be a bit of a shock," Lee Westwood said of the first tee. "It's a bit of an intimidating atmosphere, yet nothing they can't handle."
Watson has been preaching redemption from the Americans' meltdown at Medinah, where they lost the largest lead ever by a home team. Europe captain Paul McGinley is talking approximately a template of success, even though his four teams on Friday morning are entirely new.
US team captain Tom Watson, left, & Europe team captain Paul McGinley arrive with their teams for …
"The pleasant is only starting now," McGinley said. "We relish the challenge."
Adding to the pleasant are the final two matches.
Poulter is like a peacock, strutting around Gleneagles, eager as ever to show off his Ryder Cup feathers. He was singled out even ahead of McIlroy â€” a four-time major champion & golf's No. 1 player â€” as the one man Americans would love to knock off. Watson is sending out a pair of rookies against him who have nothing to lose.
"I told them today, 'I'm going to throw you in the ocean without a life preserver. You're on your own. You obtain out there & you obtain it done,'" Watson said.
As for the anchor match involving Mickelson & McIlroy? Watson compared that match with the "main event in the first round."
"Now see what happens in the next 72 hours," he said.
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Source: “Associated Press”