In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Bernd Wiesberger reflects on his first experience of playing in the Ryder Cup and resetting goals now that he’s back on the European Tour
I’m now back on the European Tour and it’s been a few weeks since I was in Whistling Straits, and the overwhelming feeling I have is gratitude. The Ryder Cup was the best week of my golfing life, and I’m grateful I’m able to walk away with so many memories. But I also just wanted to collectively say how grateful we were for all the support we had, and we still felt it even though not as many people could be there as we hoped. Collectively we were really disappointed not to be able to bring back the Cup but it was such a great week for all of us and it’s going to stay with me forever. The thought of having the experience I did in in front of a home crowd is a massive motivator for me to be part of another team in Rome – and beyond.
It was a week unlike any other I’ve had in my time as a golf professional. Normally we play for ourselves, but at the Ryder Cup it so quickly turns into a team atmosphere where you’re playing and pulling for guys you normally compete against. It was very, very special, and I feel lucky we had such a great group of players, support staff and our Captain and Vice Captains, because they made it what it what it was.
To have been part of that team was amazing because the Ryder Cup has always been one of my biggest goals, but I hadn’t really thought too much about making the team until after I won the Made in Himmerland earlier this year. I’m not a big rankings follower, but in the round ups after the tournament I realised I was at this point in the Race to Dubai and this point in the Ryder Cup rankings. And I was like OK, this is back on. After that my scheduling and preparation was all a little bit more tailored to being ready for important weeks, and then I knew if I gave it a good push in the last few weeks where there was a lot of points to grab, I could make the team. And the way I did it – recovering well from a poor start at Wentworth – actually helped with my confidence once I did make the team.
Then once I was part of the team all the pressure almost just fell off me, because I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore. I didn’t need to qualify anymore, I was one of the 12 guys to play for Europe, so I tried to enjoy it and I actually felt quite free and relaxed out there. I think it was because there had been so much on the line at Wentworth for me, and influenced how I played a little bit, and once I knew I was in the team that went away. There’s obviously a lot of pressure to play for Europe and your team, but I only had a few days between making the team and flying so I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it all. I think that helped me enjoy it, and it was a massive joy all the six days we were on the golf course over there.
I think it showed through my golf, and I was quite proud of how I performed. Not from a scoring point of view and obviously we were disappointed not to win, but from a playing point of view. When you play against the best players in the world there’s very little margin for error, and while I came close a few times I felt I played decent golf all week with the odd exception. I was certainly quite proud to birdie my first hole on the Friday afternoon, and even though Viktor and I were disappointed not to contribute a point on Saturday I really enjoyed having him by my side.
There were two real stand-out moments for me during the week, but the most pride I felt was when I was announced by Paddy at the opening ceremony as the first Austrian to play in the Ryder Cup. That was very special for me, the people around me and the Austrian golf community as a whole. And then really getting everything going as a Ryder Cup player on the Friday afternoon for the first time was a big deal.
I don’t think anything really prepares you for that moment on the first tee. I’ve played for Europe in the EurAsia Cup and in the Seve Cup, and I helped out on site for German TV during the Ryder Cup in France in 2018, but it’s different. I think that experience in 2018 really triggered that deep desire in me to be part of one of these teams, and I think I knew then how special it was even standing 100 yards down the fairway. But then getting into the team and experiencing that in Whistling Straits as a player on the first tee when we sent the guys out in the foursomes and then stepping on the first tee myself in the afternoon was really cool. There’s nothing that compares to it in golf. I’ve played all of the Major Championships, and that’s a different level success, but it’s unlike any other experience I’ve had before and one I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.
The team atmosphere was particularly special and it was there from day one. And to be honest I couldn’t really say how it even happened. It just happened from one day to the next. One day you’re competitors, and the next you meet up with the guys from London, or in the Team Room on the Monday evening and all of a sudden you’re a team, you look after each other, look out for each other and play for one another.
I’ve played with these guys for so many years and we were guided really well by the more senior players of the European Team but we were also really included as part of the 12 man team, and I think that made a big difference. Once you’re in that room you don’t feel on a different level to any of the guys, you’re an even part of the team regardless if you’re playing your first one or your 11th.
I mean, where else would you see four or five of the best players in the world following their team-mates on the back nine and showing they care about their game as much as they would for their own? It’s quite unbelievable, and the way the European team comes together for such a short time is amazing. It’s tough to describe, but it’s a very special feeling to be part of and standing alongside those guys regardless of if we would have won. All day every day we had such good chemistry in the team room, there so much fun around that there are there are a lot of memories I will take with me.
There were so many great ideas throughout the week that really helped us bond as a team, too. The set up for us – with everyone who qualified having their number, was a really nice continuous gesture and made us really connect. It was amazing to me that so few people, that only 164 professionals have represented Europe at the Ryder Cup. You realise that it’s an elite small circle and it’s very good to identify yourself as one of them. And while you get your own number, you’re very aware as part of that 12-man team, and to make that week count as part of that team was the message. It was there all through the set up – in the locker room, the team room, on our bags and in our hotel rooms – and it was amazing.
And then you know, on the Wednesday we came out in our Green Bay Packers uniforms and Cheese Heads. It’s not something I ever expected I’d do but it was received really well, and I had a lot of people on the golf course and people messaging me telling me how cool it was. Just being part of all of it was amazing.
I don’t think I will look at any one of these guys ever as a competitor again. I will always look at them as my team-mates now going forward, and if that’s all that comes out of that week that’s as much as I could have hoped for. We lost, but that week and the experience I have will always be there, and the friendships will be too.
Since coming back to Europe after the Ryder Cup, and playing last week in Spain after a week off, the reception has been great. Everyone has been super excited for me personally that I made the team, and all I’ve had is very nice comments from other players, from the European Tour and spectators in Spain. I think the Spanish people, with their legacy in the Ryder Cup, really know how much it means to us players, and the support has been really nice.
But the other side of coming back is that I took a big part of the week after trying to come off that emotional high of being in a team environment to reset and go back to the day job. It’s not that easy, and I just tried to focus on setting myself goals for the rest of the year, so that I was playing towards something at the end of the season and pushing in to next year.
Looking forward, I’m in a nice place in the Race to Dubai right now so I’d like to make a push towards the top of the Rankings, and I would love to pick up a lot of World Ranking points towards the end of the year to try and get back into the top 50 and secure some playing rights in the first Major next year. But I’ve also been thinking about the longer term goal of how to make sure I’m part of another Ryder Cup team in a few years’ time. Once you’re on the team once, you don’t want to miss another one.