Ryder Cup Preview
The Ryder Cup is one of my favorite sporting events. It is rare that great players go head to head in a competition that has great meaning to all contestants. The ebb and flow of match play is both physical and emotional. It really showcases a player’s grit and nerves. As most of you know, the Ryder Cup was a one sided affair for many years with the USA dominating the team from Britain and Ireland. With the addition of the European countries and the emergence of better international players, the tide turned and lately it’s’ been a European rout.
This year’s venue is at the historic Gleneagles Hotel with play on the Jack Nicklaus designed PGA Centenary Course. Gleneagles Hotel is a five star hotel that has hosted many international political events. Golf has been played there since 1919, when James Braid designed the Kings and Queens courses for the yet to be built Gleneagles Hotel which opened in 1924. The Kings course is a marvelously interesting layout that took great advantage of the hills and dales of the Scottish landscape. However with the modern equipment and golf ball, the course became too short for the modern professionals. In 1993, Jack Nicklaus completed a championship tournament golf course, so Gleneagles could host major events and European PGA Tour events. The course was built north of the hotel in what once was an open meadow. However, with a lot of earth moving, Jack created a rolling traditional Scottish looking golf course. I played the course in 1994 and found many of the holes very challenging, but overall not that difficult. In 2012, Jack came back and made some adjustments to strengthen some of the weaker holes. In the twenty years since I played the course, the trees have grown up and the character has been added. Overall I think the course is more like an American course. Greens are elevated and second shots require higher trajectories. The one thing that will be difficult for the American’s will be the stiff wind, which will blow through the hills. The advantage will definitely belong to the European’s, but the home course advantage will be negated by the more American friendly course layout.
I have been fortunate to stay at the Gleneagles Hotel 10 times during the 1980’s and 90’s. I took a team of amateurs to play in the International Four Ball Championship. We stayed at the Gleneagles Hotel and played the Kings and Queens courses, Carnoustie, and the Old Course at St. Andrews. Interestingly, we played during the same week in September that the current Ryder Cup is now being played. During that time, we experienced every weather condition possible. It rained sideways, blew with gales up to 50 miles an hour, cold freezing conditions, and perfect 70 degree weather. One day we were unable to go out the front door of the golf shop, because the wind was blowing so hard that it wouldn’t open. The first hole was about 400 yards long and into the wind. I hit a good drive, a hard three wood, and had a full wedge. That’s what the Ryder cup competitors can expect.
I will be glued to my television set and give you my perspective of the completion. It will be fun to see the nerves on display and how everyone handles the butterflies.