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Colsaerts 'back from the dead' 0

TIM MCKAY, QMI Agency
Team Europe golfer Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium hits his tee shot on the third hole during a practice round at the 39th Ryder Cup matches at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Illinois, September 26, 2012. (REUTERS)

Team Europe golfer Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium hits his tee shot on the third hole during a practice round at the 39th Ryder Cup matches at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Illinois, September 26, 2012. (REUTERS)

What should the Americans fear from the European side for this Ryder Cup?

Four of the world's top five-ranked players? Sure.

The Euros' winning record over the past decade or two? Maybe.

How about a big, slow-moving zombie created in the image of Fred Couples?

Now that's scary.

He's big, he ambles around the course, slow and deliberate, and he will kill you with a driver. And he's coming for you, Americans.

Yes, in case you hadn't already guessed, it's European captain's pick Nicolas Colsaerts.

"I feel like I've come back from the dead," Colsaerts said Wednesday, "which is a bit of a weapon."

The 29-year-old was referring to his years of struggles and wasted talent.

Colsaerts earned his card on the European Tour just days after his 18th birthday with all the promise in the world. He's a natural athlete -- his great-grandfather represented Belgium in basketball and water polo in the 1920 Olympics -- who started to take things for granted, partying instead of practising, and he wallowed as a professional golfer.

It wasn't until 2009, when he re-dedicated himself, that he starting meeting that potential with a pair of wins on the Challenge Tour, climbing from outside the top 1,000 in the world rankings to 127th.

In 2011, he secured his breakout victory at the European Tour Volvo China Open, and this season, he added the Volvo World Match Play Championship.

Colsaerts is the first Belgian to make a Ryder Cup squad and considering where he has been, the 35th-ranked player in the world -- lowest here this week -- is thrilled to be representing Europe at Medinah.

"I'm kind of proud of my story," Colsaerts said. "This is quite an achievement. When you look back and you see where I was three years ago, I'm just the perfect example that if you want something really bad and you put your work into it -- if you've got the heart and the passion -- anything is achievable."

He's the longest hitter here this week -- longer than anyone on the PGA or European Tours -- averaging 317.74 yards off the tee this season. Bubba Watson leads the PGA Tour and the American team in driving distance at 315.5.

Growing up in Belgium, not exactly a haven of golf, Colsaerts said there wasn't much exposure to the game and he had just one hero growing up: American assistant captain Fred Couples.

"I just liked Freddy, he just always seemed to be a cool cat," Colsaerts said. "The way he walks and the way he played. I always loved the laziness about him.

"Funny enough, I think I walk kind of the same way."

It was Colsaerts' own laziness that almost forced him from the game, but also sparked his return to form.

"How about just watching tournament golf on TV and thinking, 'Shouldn't you be on the other side of the screen?' " Colsaerts said of his lowest point. "Just looking at stuff that other people were doing that I've beaten regularly, it's pretty sad."

And motivating.

"You're going through this growing as a man and you realize you want to be what you always dreamed of, so you've got to put your work into it, you've got to put your heart into it."

Look out, Americans, Colsaerts is coming. And he has something he lacked in the past ... brains.

WOODS TARGETED

Tiger Woods knows a little something about coming into the Ryder Cup with a target on his back.

This will be his seventh Ryder Cup and it marks just the third time he hasn't come into the tournament with the world's No. 1 ranking. Woods was No. 2 to Greg Norman at his first at Valderrama in Spain, second to Vijay Singh in 2004 at Oakland Hills in Michigan, and this week, he comes in playing second fiddle to Europe's Rory McIlroy.

It's not likely to happen -- Woods is the top-ranked American and will still be a target -- but he gladly will put the pressure of being world No. 1 squarely on the shoulders of his young competition.

"It's part of being consistent. It's part of being ranked No. 1," Woods said. "It's part of winning major championships. You're always going to want to try and take out their best player and that's just part of the deal. That's a fun challenge.

"I certainly have relished it over the years and I'm sure (McIlroy) is going to relish it this week."

McIlroy has answered all challenges thus far in his young career -- backing up his 2011 U.S. Open victory with the PGA championship this season -- and he's not about to let any pressure get to him this week.

"This week I'm not the No. 1 player in the world," he said Wednesday. "I'm one person in a 12-man team, and that's it. It's a team effort. There are 12 guys striving toward the same goal. I'm just part of it."

Still, he's up for a little gamesmanship.

"I don't think I have a bulls-eye on my back," McIlroy said. "I think it's a huge compliment that people are saying they want to beat me and whatever. Whoever wants to take me on, they can take me on."

Being ranked No. 1 is a spot Woods knows well, having held it for a record 623 weeks over the course of his career.

Might he have any advice for his young sparring partner and friend on how to handle it this week?

"Well, I'm not going to say anything," Woods said. "Obviously, he's playing for the other team.

"We can talk about it after."

Year Ryder venue World No. 1

2012 Medinah, Chicago Rory McIlroy (Woods No. 2)

2010 Celtic Manor, Wales Tiger Woods (McIlroy No. 9)

2008 Valhalla, Louisville, Ky. Tiger Woods (McIlroy did not play)

2006 The K Club, Ireland Tiger Woods

2004 Oakland Hills, Michigan Vijay Singh (Woods No. 2)

2002 The Belfry, England Tiger Woods

1999 Brookline, Massachusetts Tiger Woods

1997 Valderrama, Spain Greg Norman (Woods No. 2)

tim.mckay@sunmedia.ca


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