There’s been a lot of talk about the role that the golf course will play in the Ryder Cup, which will finally start Friday after an interminable run-up. But I doubt that the course will play much of a role in the matches or the outcome. I think the course plays a minor role in the Ryder Cup, certainly less than in stroke play competitions.
The Ryder Cup is much more about players going at one another than their going at the course. The event could be played on a muni where the fairways are ragged and the greens stimp at six. There’s a reason golf observers like to think of the Ryder Cup as mano a mano. That’s because it is exactly that, man against man, one golfer’s nerves against another’s.
This hasn’t stopped all the chatter about the fact that U.S. captain Davis Love III has had so much to do with preparing Medinah Country Club’s #3 course, the venue for the Ryder Cup. There’s no rough, the course will encourage golfers to go for everything, etc., etc. I referred to this in my column the other day, but I was writing more about the influence of the set-up on the atmosphere than on the play.
The team captains and players have been asked repeatedly about the influence the course and set-up could have on the matches. Love said he didn’t want a “grinding it out style of golf,” hence no rough. Europe’s captain Jose Maria Olazabal said it’s a “little bit of a free-wheel off the tee.” Love set up the course in so that the players could play John Daly golf, “grip it and rip it,” that is, and because he believes this will provide his team an advantage and make for a livelier atmosphere. Better television too, he suggested.
The fact that the course is set up to promote aggressive golf and encourage players to let it all hang out, so to speak, should mean that the course will play less of, not more of, a role. The European players can certainly grip it and rip it with the best of the Americans. The Ryder Cup rookie Nicholas Colsaerts is one of the longest hitters in the game. Tiger Woods said he not only has a beautiful swing, but that “It’s amazing how far he hits it.”
And, of course, Rory McIlroy is not exactly a short hitter.
Olazabal said the home crowd will provide the U.S. an advantage. The course? Maybe not.
“But going back to the golf course, when you look back, I don't know, 20 years, 25 years ago, obviously we were not all that familiar with these type of set-up courses, the speeds on the greens, the firmness of the greens. And nowadays, because most of those players are playing here regularly, you know, I don't feel that the course itself, the course setup, is such an advantage.”
The final word, at least for this piece, goes to Europe’s Lee Westwood. He’s the team’s most experienced player, having competed in seven Ryder Cups.
“I've played here (in the U.S.) pretty much all year, and I haven't seen a golf course that's had no rough and no rough around the greens. This is not a golf course that either team is particularly used to, and I can't see how it suits one team or the other to be perfectly honest. I would say that the last time I played a golf course set up like this with no rough around the greens and no rough down the side of the fairways was The Belfry in 2002, and we set that up for ourselves.”
Clearly, Westwood doesn’t think that the set-up that Love mandated will provide an advantage to his team.
“That's a weird one to me, but you have to do what you feel is right, I think, as a team captain for your team," Westwood said.
Let the matches begin. Let the preamble and the ceaseless speculating, well, cease. Golfers, start your driving. Have at it, and each other, which is what the Ryder Cup is all about.
RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein