PARIS – Don’t believe European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn when he says Le Golf National won’t favor either team in this year’s Ryder Cup. Pardon my French, but Bjorn’s being economical with the actualité.
In plain English, he’s talking rubbish.
“It’s as tough as it gets for a regular tour-event golf course,” Bjorn said about the course near Versailles. “To try and trick it up for the Ryder Cup is not really my job.
“Does it favor us or favor them? I’m not a strong a believer in that kind of scenario.
“When you put 24 of the world’s top golfers out on a golf course, they’re going to find a way round it. They’re not going to say, ‘Oh well, I can’t play this golf course’, especially in the Ryder Cup.”
True, but the Europeans are going to be more excited at taking on Le Golf National than Jim Furyk’s team. First, the majority of European stars play it on an annual basis. Second, Bjorn has made sure the course will favor Europe, just as Davis Love III ensured Hazeltine favored the United States two years ago.
The HNA French Open allowed a sneak preview of how Le Golf National will play when the match gets under way Sept. 28. Narrow fairways and deep rough took driver out of the hands of the bigger hitters and out a premium on accuracy, which favors Europe.
“The old theory is tight and scruffy,” said Graeme McDowell, one of Bjorn’s five vice captains and a two-time French Open winner. “I paced off the width of the seventh fairway at 270 yards off the tee, and it was only 18 yards wide.
“They (the U.S.) set their courses up wide with semi-rough and middle-of-the-green pins for a birdie fest. We always like to set it up a little tighter and a little tougher and maybe not having the greens quite as fast. Does it (Le Golf National) favor our guys more than theirs? We think it does.”
Matthew Fitzpatrick agrees.
“One hundred percent it will favor the European team,” said Fitzpatrick, who made his Ryder Cup debut two years ago. “We play a few more golf courses where it’s tighter off the tee like this one. I would say the American courses I’ve played – without meaning to be rude – tend to be one dimensional in terms of ball flight. Just hit it high and long.
“With our courses and the weather conditions here, you have to flight it down, hit controlled swerves, a draw or a fade. There are more variables.”
Ian Poulter is a five-time Ryder Cupper who should play in this year’s match. He’s played in 13 French Opens and says the golf course is as tight as it’s ever been.
“The fairways are slightly narrower,” he said. “I think the setup needs to be tight in our favor.
“If you look at how they’ve set their courses up, Medinah was no rough. Hazeltine was no rough. They prefer to play the birdie percentage game. They would have done the math equation that they probably make more birdies than we do from a power perspective.
“I’m not hitting driver on a lot of these holes, and I would be average in the field in terms of length. They (the longer American players) will be nudging irons around the golf course.”
Justin Thomas got a sneak preview of Le Golf National in last week’s French Open. He hit a lot of fairway woods and irons off tees. It didn’t take him long to find out just penal the rough is. He missed the fifth fairway in his opening round and found rough so deep he made double bogey.
“Hit the fairways,” Thomas said. “It’s a very big premium out here.”
U.S. players in knee-high fescue just off the fairways is exactly what Bjorn wants. Gwk