Nothing like a little nationalism to get the competitive juices flowing, and if former U.S. Ryder Cup captain Lanny Wadkins had one bit of advice for this year’s team it would be to “step on [the Europeans’] neck and twist your foot.”
Wadkins offered his counsel to David Feherty and a packed house of partisans during Monday night’s taping of Golf Channel’s Feherty Live (which aired Wednesday evening). The veteran Ryder Cupper joined two other ex-skippers, Paul Azinger and Sam Torrance, on the Chicago-area stage to chat about all things Europe v. United States since this year’s edition will take place just down the road at Medinah Country Club.
“Just get ready for a fight,” Wadkins said. “You have to go out there ‑‑ friendliness is gone....Ryder Cups, it was all about how badly can I beat this guy, and if I can beat him that bad, let's beat him worse....You've got to be mean. It's a whole different attitude....You've got to want to just take care of business."
Feherty, a native of Northern Ireland and a U.S. citizen, teased the audience about whose side he was on after entering the theater and high-fiving the capacity crowd while sporting a suit with the red and white stripes of the U.S. down one leg and the yellow stars on a blue background of the European flag down the other. He waited until the end of the show to share his boosterism.
Until then, the member of the 1991 European team held court, nodding knowingly when Azinger remarked that playing for one’s country was a pressure-filled event unlike any other.
“It's one of the greatest, most fearful stages you can be on,” said the leader of the victorious 2008 U.S. team. “It's a scary place.”
Feherty also arranged an unscripted get-together between two decorated Michaels -- Olympic hero Phelps and Hoops legend Jordan.
“Everyone asks when I finally got the chance to meet M.J., what would I say,” a dumbstruck Phelps, who has acknowledged Jordan as a role model, said about being surprised by his idol’s unexpected visit. “I was like, I don't know. And I'm like in completely just ‑‑ I don't know what to say.”
The swimmer, who recently retired after winning 22 medals -- more than any other Olympian in history -- has turned his athletic attention to golf and will receive tutoring as the newest student on Golf Channel’s The Haney Project. He also has said he modeled his career after Jordan's, which included six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls.
Jordan, who said he was “truly honored and humbled” to have Phelps consider him a role model, was in town to serve as an assistant to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III. “As competitors, we all take our craft very seriously.”
Jordan also challenged Phelps to a round of golf.
“Any time he’s ready, I’m ready,” Jordan said, before viewing a larger-than-life slo-mo video of Phelps’ golf swing.
“He’s good,” an obviously impressed Jordan said, nodding.
As for Feherty’s favored team, there really was little suspense.
“I’m a European Ryder Cup player,” the golf network's resident funny man finally declared, as the American audience began to hoot -- though the host soon turned the jeers to cheers. “But this is my home....USA! That’s what I’m talkin’ about.”