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US Team get together at The Country Club

It wasn't just a practice round that U.S. Ryder Cup captain Ben Crenshaw had in mind when he called the team together at The Country Club. He also gave them some advice for when they return to the tour.

"When you go to a tournament, I want you to be together ... call one another," Crenshaw told them before the team left Monday. "I want you to know what one another's thinking."

Since watching the favored Americans fall apart in Valderrama in 1997 -- their second consecutive loss -- Crenshaw has stressed teamwork and camaraderie as a key to taking back the trophy. So his goal Monday was not just to familiarize the players with the course, but also with each other.

Eight of the 12 members of the U.S. team took Crenshaw up on his call for togetherness by playing a round at the course where they will take on the Europeans on Sept. 24-26.

"Any moment we can spend with one another is golden in my mind," Crenshaw said. "I think today was extremely beneficial."

Since being named captain two years ago, Crenshaw has gushed about the venerated course that essentially gave birth to American golf in 1913, when a 20-year-old caddie named Francis Ouimet beat Englishmen Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff to win the U.S. Open.

The Open was played here again in 1963, when it was won by Julius Boros, and in '88, when Curtis Strange won it.

"The place is dripping with history," said Hal Sutton, who finished 64th in the '88 Open and will return for the Ryder Cup. "I'm just glad to be a part of this next bit of history."

Sutton joined Ryder Cup teammates Phil Mickelson and The Country Club first-timers David Duval and Jeff Maggert in Monday's first foursome. Steve Pate, Payne Stewart and first-timers Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard played in the second group.

Davis Love III, who has a problem with a nerve in his neck, was seeing Dr. Frank Jobe in Alabama on Monday and could not play. Tiger Woods, Tom Lehman and Mark O'Meara were out with prior commitments.

"The first-timers, when they get here, they'll understand what kind of place this is. I wanted them to experience that in a sort of a quiet situation," Crenshaw said. "They know that they need to make history, too."

Crenshaw first came to Brookline as a 16-year-old amateur and also played in the '88 U.S. Open, where he finished 12th.

"My feelings are so tied to this course. I wanted the fellas to come in and really enjoy the day -- of course for a practice round, but also for the setting," he said. "You really do feel like you're playing against ... a piece of art."

Still, camaraderie can only go so far.

"As much as you want to talk about a team, when Phil's out there putting, he has to make that putt," Duval said. "We can't help him.''

Pate agreed.

"Making putts is better than chemistry," he said. ``I don't know what you can do. It seems to me it's either there or it's not. We'll find out in three weeks."