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Only some have the Ryder Cup passion

Europe's victories over the United States in recent Ryder Cup matches often have been attributed to the "passion" of its players.

No one personifies that more than Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia, two Spaniards who admit that they take an emotional, even "fiery," approach to the biennial matches, which are being contested for the 33rd time this week.

In contrast, Americans Tiger Woods and David Duval, the two top-ranked golfers in the world, are low-key, almost blase, in their attitude toward the intercontinental competition.

Olazabal, who has been a European star of the past five Ryder Cups, compiling a record of 14 wins, eight losses and three halves, admits to being passionate about the game.

"You can see that by the way I reacted at the U.S. Open," Olazabal said on Tuesday, looking slightly embarrassed.

The 33-year-old two-time Masters champion punched a wall after playing poorly in the first round of the Open at Pinehurst in June, breaking a bone in his hand.

"That's the way we (Spanish) are -- most of us anyway," Olazabal said. "It is very difficult to see a Spanish person who doesn't react to certain situations. We are not as calm as some of the British, that's for sure, or Germans or Swedish."

Garcia, a 19-year-old who became a professional just five months ago, is also very emotional when it comes to golf but also exudes an endearing carefree attitude.

The youngster, who had a brilliant amateur career that he topped off by being the low-amateur at this year's Masters, said that one of his biggest goals this year was playing on his first Ryder Cup team.

"What I have on my mind right now is to help the European team try to win the Cup," he said. "I don't care who I'm going to play, I'm going to try to beat him. I just want to help the team win -- that's the only thing I have on my mind."

Woods and Duval, on the other hand, appeared less determined about whether the United States ends its losing streak against Europe, which has won the last two Cups and four of the last seven, along with a draw that enabled them to retain the trophy in 1989.

They have both gone so far as to call the 72-year-old team competition "an exhibition."

Both Woods, who has played on one (losing) Ryder Cup team, in 1997 at Valderrama in Spain, and Duval, who is a Cup rookie, said they did not think that winning the Cup this week would add much to their personal records.

Asked if they thought they needed to play well in the Ryder Cup to be considered great players, both said no but added it would be "nice" to win it.

"Whether you have a wonderful record or not in match play and team format, I don't think that's going to make or break your career," said Woods, who won the 1997 Masters and last month's PGA Championship for two major titles by the age of 23.

Duval, who won four tournaments earlier this year and is ranked second in the world behind Woods, also seemed unconcerned whether he wins the Ryder Cup, although he admitted it "would be a nice cap" on his year.

Olazabal, by contrast, showed how passionately he cares about winning the Cup by admitting how nervous he was when he hit the first tee ball in the 1991 matches at Kiawah Island in South Carolina, which became known as "The War on the Shore."

"The only thing that stands still is the shaft of the club -- and that's before you take it out of the bag," he remembered. "Everything else shakes -- your hands, legs, everything. And that's how it is."

That's how it is, if you want to win the Ryder Cup badly enough.


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