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First Timers: Role of the Ryder Cup Rookie

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First Timers: Role of the Ryder Cup Rookie
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Nicolas Colsaerts' Friday afternoon heroics at Medinah in 2012 have become the stuff of legend(Getty Images)

"Eight birdies and an eagle! Nico Colsaerts! Nico Colsaerts!" - to the tune of the chorus from the well-known Clash song Rock the Kasbah - is a chant that unfortunately never echoed along the fairways of Medinah Country Club on Friday September 28, 2012, but it really should have done.

Often overlooked in the aftermath of the miracle that unfolded in the days hence, Nicolas Colsaerts' star turn alongside Lee Westwood in the Friday afternoon fourball matches has been reliably described by many as the greatest debut in Ryder Cup history.

As the aforementioned chant-that-never-was should have gone, the Belgian Bomber's eight birdies and an eagle on his own ball - ten under no less - saw him and his partner win by just one hole over the formidable pairing of Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods, earning what would prove to be a valuable point in Europe's narrow victory.

The story of Belgium's first Ryder Cup representative is not new though, as rookies have proven to be key to numerous European victories over the years, and their performances have made for some of the most compelling narratives the storied biennial match play contest has ever seen.

In 2014 there will be three first timers on the European Team taking to the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles - namely Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson and Stephen Gallacher - with time certain to tell whether any of these highly-qualified professionals will play a key role in another European success.

Perhaps one of them will have the opportunity to hole the winning putt like their teammate Henrik Stenson did on his debut at the K Club in 2006, while their captain can also tell them a thing or two about that, after Paul McGinley rolled in a crucial 12 foot putt across The Belfry's 18th green in 2002 to ensure his European Team took the trophy back after their loss three years prior at Brookline.

And speaking of those three days in Massachusetts, they were also the setting for perhaps one of the less enviable responsibilities that might befall one of the first timers in Scotland - the dreaded first tee shot.

Tasked with just that on his debut in 1999, but with the steadying hand of Colin Montgomerie by his side in the opening foursomes, the Open Champion of the same year, Paul Lawrie - rather impressively - managed to put the pressure to one side and rifle his drive straight down the fairway.

"When I got on the tee I was as nervous as I've ever been," said the man who made a welcome return to The Ryder Cup fray in 2012, for only his second appearance. "There were thousands around the tee and then you know there are millions of people watching on the telly. There are so many shocking shots that I was quite proud of myself. Mickelson missed the fairway by about 50 yards."

Alongside his compatriot and playing partner, Lawrie would claim two and a half points from his four matches alongside Montgomerie, and on a final day in which the Americans famously won eight of the 12 singles matches, the debutant was one of only three blue points on the board as Europe surrendered a four point advantage on Sunday.

While that year would become famous for a stunning comeback by the US Team, it is also memorable for the formation of another formidable European partnership involving a rookie.

Charged with corralling one of the most energetic and excitable characters in the team, Swedish veteran Jesper Parnevik was paired with swashbuckling debutant Sergio Garcia, and what followed was truly something to behold.

Rather than try to contain the effervescent 19 year old, the experienced Swede seemed happy to let him fly as the pair jumped and leaped and high fived their way to three wins and a half in their four matches together, with Garcia's only loss that week coming on his lonesome at the hands of Jim Furyk on Sunday.

That year would prove to be an example of things to come for Garcia, who has not only continued to put blue numbers on the board in his subsequent five appearances, but has also been one half of some of the last decade's great partnerships. Alongside the likes of Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and his compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal, to name just a few, the 34 year old has notched up 12 of his 18 career points with a trusted teammate by his side.

And speaking of the aforementioned victorious 2012 captain, 'Ollie' himself took to Ryder Cup life with aplomb as part of the first European team to triumph on American soil, when the Spaniard claimed three points from five matches at Muirfield Village.

That week Olazabal would forge one of the contest's all-time great partnerships, winning 12 points from 15 matches alongside his compatriot Seve Ballesteros, who himself - rather remarkably - got his Ryder Cup story off to a slow start some nine years earlier.

As part of the first team to include players from Continental Europe in 1979, Ballesteros would only win one point from his first five matches that year. Proof therefore that success, or lack thereof, during a player's Ryder Cup bow is not necessarily a determinant of future fine play.

However, in Sir Nick Faldo's case it very much can be. The six time Major Champion is Europe's most successful Ryder Cup player, having won 25 points from 46 matches, and it all started for the Englishman with three wins from as many games back in 1977.

Memorable rookie displays are not always those which last the duration of the tournament week, though, with memorable cameos having proved as iconic as longer runs of form.

Think back to the 16th green at The Belfry in 2002, and the sight of Phillip Price convulsing in delight at his 3 and 2 victory over Phil Mickelson - one of that year's, and indeed the contest's, great images.

While his namesake, in this instance Phillip Walton, also had a starring role at the climax to the matches in 1995 as he sank the winning putt as part of a one hole triumph over Jay Haas. Cue jubilant scenes around the 18th green, and Walton's reward, one of the biggest bear hugs you've ever seen from Captain Bernard Gallacher.

So there you have it, a brief study into the role of a rookie at The Ryder Cup.

For some it can be a week in which their destiny is decided, their path to legendary status laid out before them, while for others it can be a fleeting glimpse at what true sporting heroism is.

So as the curtain goes up on this latest instalment, three such men will hope to play their part in the golfing theatre to come, but only time will tell as to what role Messrs Donaldson, Dubuisson and Gallacher will play in this latest Ryder Cup performance.

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