CHASKA (Minnesota) • Jordan Spieth says the US Ryder Cup team is looking to pay tribute to Arnold Palmer this week after his death, and what better way than winning the trophy.
The Americans have lost three in a row, and eight of the past 10 Cup showdowns to Europe ahead of Friday's start of the 41st biennial matches at Hazeltine.
"As Team USA, we're all looking to do something to honour him this week," the two-time Major winner said. "We all learnt a lot from him. We would not be who we are on and off the course if it were not for him."
The US flag flies at half staff over the suburban Minneapolis course to pay homage to Palmer, who died of heart issues on Sunday at age 87.
Palmer was the first superstar of American golf, the first true celebrity sportsman.
He attracted passionate supporters known as Arnie's Army and lifted golf into the television age and beyond, serving as an inspiration to many of today's top stars.
"He was the first cool guy to play golf," said US Ryder Cup player Jimmy Walker. "Nobody did anything more for golf than Arnie did. He was one of the greatest personalities in golf ever. He had a love for the game. It showed to the end."
He was the first cool guy to play golf. Nobody did anything more for golf than Arnie did.
JIMMY WALKER, US Ryder Cup player, on seven-time Major champion Arnold Palmer, who died this week at age 87.
Black and white video highlights of Palmer in his prime, a US sports-TV staple since his death, fail to capture the go-for-broke style that made him popular, or the fan-friendly manner and charm that made the seven-time Major winner iconic for how he played in addition to how well he played.
"All athletes owe him a debt. He paved the way for us," Spieth said. "He was a role model and golf's greatest friend. I still think it's underrated how much he contributed to golf. This will be a tough loss for golf going forward."
Spieth, 23, was born in 1993, the same year Palmer collected his last Tour victory of any sort at the Champions Tour Skins Game.
But Palmer was able to pass along lessons about golf and life to the younger stars.
"He's just a man who has inspired me personally," said Spieth, who shared the locker Palmer uses in the Augusta National Champions Locker room. "I don't feel worthy. He should have his own. I feel very fortunate to have something in common with him."
Europe Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke said both teams are preparing to honour Palmer both with a worn emblem as well as their performances.
"Whatever happens this week, it will be another great chapter in Ryder Cup history," he said. "And one that honours Mr Palmer."
On Monday, in what will be portrayed either as a motivational masterstroke or a needless act of compassion, Bubba Watson was named as a fifth and final vice-captain to the US team.
Despite being ranked seventh in the world,Watson was controversially overlooked by Davis Love III for one of his four captain's playing picks.
"Bubba has offered a couple times to come and be one of our assistant captains, and I told him we had an extra red cart and we'd love to have him," Love said. "He adds a lot of fun, he adds a different personality, he brings a great heart."
Watson joins Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Tom Lehman as assistants to Love.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS