MEDINAH, ILL. -- As they always say about the Ryder Cup, experience is everything. On that score, the U.S. team is fortunate that some of its players have none of it. After all, the most veteran American team members have mostly lost the event, and who needs experience like that?
"We need that excitement, that energy that rookies provide as much as they need a little bit of guidance," said Phil Mickelson, who will be playing in his ninth Ryder Cup Friday. "We need that positive outlook, that desire to win, because our highlights are [only] '99 and '08, the two times that we've won."
Europe has won six of the last eight installments of this biennial match-play extravaganza, four of the last five. Most of that streak has come during an era in which Tiger Woods dominated just about everything else in golf. Woods has been on the winning side in the Ryder Cup only once, in 1999 (he was injured in 2008). "Well, certainly I am responsible for that, because I didn't win the points that I was put out there for," he said, alluding to his 13-14-1 career record.
No one is insisting it was all Woods' fault. As Steve Stricker, his likely partner, said, "He's kind of a marked man every time he tees it up in one of these events."
None of Woods' seven current teammates with Ryder Cup experience has a winning record, either. The bottom line is it might just be a positive that Brandt Snedeker, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Jason Dufner have a combined zero Ryder Cup matches on their resumes.
Johnny Miller said on a conference call last week, "I'm not a big believer in doing anything historical, because historically, we [stink] in The Ryder Cup. I like new blood."
The feeling is that new blood is better than scar tissue. "I'm going to be playing a lot with Keegan Bradley, it's no secret here," said Mickelson, whose career mark is 11-17-6. "He is so excited, and that exuberance and energy that he brings, you feed off of it."
In the U.S. team room, it is seen as a good thing that the first-timers can give as good as they get, razzing-wise. "Guys like Phil and Tiger, some of the best guys in the world, I feel like sometimes they get a hall pass because they are who they are," Snedeker said. "And I want to make sure they don't get a hall pass. So I give them a hard time and they give it right back, and I take it."
Snedeker is the hottest golfer on either side, given that he won the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup on Sunday. The latter brought him a life-changing bonus. When he was signing autographs outside the Medinah Country Club clubhouse yesterday, one fan yelled out, "The 10 Million Dollar Man!"
"I'm not going to splurge on anything. I know it's not going to affect me one way or the other. I know it sounds crazy, but it's really not," he said. He grew up watching the Ryder Cup. "It's kind of crazy to think that I'm on that TV this time, I'm out there with kids watching me," Snedeker said, adding, "Friday morning can't get here quick enough."
That's the enthusiasm of a Ryder Cup newcomer. He might not be the only one of those in his family. His wife is here, eight months pregnant. "We're making sure," he said, "she is very, very comfortable this week."