Craig Connelly’s been closer than most – he had the best view of one of the greatest moments in Ryder Cup history – and he thinks it’s really just about how plays better.
The popular Glaswegian caddie for Martin Kaymer will be at Whistling Straits as his boss is a vice-captain, mostly on buggy-driving duties, but backing up the team when needed.
“The Wee Man” was of course on the bag when Kaymer holed the winning putt to complete the Miracle at Medinah in 2012. As Connolly memorably said at the time, he never thought he’d miss – “when did you ever see a German miss a penalty?”
‘Maybe it’s that mentality’
Before working the men’s tour and helping Kaymer to major victories, Connolly worked on the LPGA Tour. He caddied in the Solheim Cup in 2000 and 2002, before working every Ryder Cup from 2004 to 2016.
“I can only talk from European perspective having been involved in both,” he said. “Trish Johnson said something on air at the Solheim Cup a few weeks ago – ‘They are the big Tour and we are the wee Tour’. Maybe it’s that mentality.
“On paper in the Solheim, the Americans were better, but the Europeans came out the better team. Essentially, I think that is pretty much like The Ryder Cup.
“What is it now, six out of the last seven to Europe in the Ryder Cup and four of the last six Solheims?”
‘They are all mates, they all travel together’
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) September 20, 2021
Connelly doesn’t buy the supposedly greater camaraderie of the Europeans.
“That’s too easy,” he says. “Over the years, look at Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler. They are all mates. They all travel together.
“So that blows that theory out of the window. In my view it just comes down to the golf. Simple. Whoever holes the most putts.”
Craig has noticed a sea-change in philosophies in his time to now.
“Maybe there’s something in the captain’s role and who they pair together,” he said. “My two Solheim Cups the statistics weren’t around as much. Even my first Ryder Cup in 2004 it was just down to personalities. Who suited who.
“Everything is done through stats now, but it’s that mixture of experience and youth and games complementing each other. The bottom line is the guys are all just so good. On any given day, they can beat each other.”
‘He knows he has the respect of the whole team’
— Sky Sport (@SkySportDE) September 5, 2021
It’s a different perspective in the backroom, and has given Craig an insight into the way the team is being prepared.
“The Ryder Cup role is something I have really seen Martin grow into over the past few weeks.
“He was a bit taken aback to be asked, but I said to him ‘this is what Padraig thinks of you’. He knows he has the respect of the whole team.
“He’s young enough to have things in common with the younger players. But he has the respect of the older players. He partnered Lee Westwood back at Celtic Manor.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be a sounding board. It’s been great to hear everything that is going on. As a player and caddie, you are just used to getting onto the plane, opening your bedroom door and everything is laid out for you.
“It feels different, but when you get there, you’re in with your mates again. I’m really looking forward to it.”