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Rory explains how the European team setup Le Golf National to “neutralize” the U.S. players

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As the 2018 Ryder Cup weekend wore on at Le Golf National, and the United States kept digging itself into a deeper hole, it became obvious Team USA was in trouble. The Europeans turned a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 lead on Friday, extended the lead to 10-6 on Saturday, and won the Ryder Cup 17.5 to 10.5. A thorough beat down.

But why? What happened to the stacked United States team, filled with top-ranked golfers, hall-of-famers, veterans, and talented rookies.

What the U.S. media, and possibly the U.S. “task force,” didn’t know going into the event was how penal Le Golf National was on wayward drives; hitting fairways was essential. And it seemed the U.S. players were playing from the incredibly thick rough surrounding the narrow fairways, or taking drops from water hazards, or hitting balls over fences (Reed), way more often than the European players were at “Paris National” — as Rory McIlroy referred to the course in a post-event interview.

When you look at the driving accuracy stats from the 2017-2018 season via PGA Tour’s website, it starts making more sense:

It seems the Europeans, however, were privy to that knowledge, and actually set Le Golf National up purposely tough off the tee to put the United States at a disadvantage.

Here’s what Rory told interviewer Jimmy Roberts about home-course advantage after the Ryder Cup match on the Golf Channel’s telecast.

“It is an advantage to be playing at home. The crowds being mostly for the home team, and I think the captain has a little bit of control on what he can do with the golf course. You know, we’ve set this golf course up very tough this week so it neutralizes some of the bombers that were on the U.S. side. You have to do what you have to do to give yourself any slight advantage. We knew that coming in and we neutralized the big ball hitters here and it paid off for us.”

Paid off it did. The Europeans regained the Ryder Cup in convincing fashion.

Full recap of the Sunday singles matches at the 2018 Ryder Cup.

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Andrew Tursky is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX. He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. big jones

    Oct 1, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    Maybe “leave your egos” comment meant for the US to gear back and not play bomb and gauge?

  2. James Sweeney

    Oct 1, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    Had this discussion pre cup. There should be a neutral party to set up the course. Skewing the course toward on side or the other is contrary to the egalitarian ethos of the game.

    • Clint

      Oct 2, 2018 at 9:19 am

      In golf it’s perfectly fair to set the course up so it suits one team’s game. Both teams have to play the same course so they’re both subjected to the same challenges. This is no different than the shift in baseball, zone defense against good isolation teams in basketball, and various defenses in football to take away another team’s advantage.

  3. dixiedoc

    Oct 1, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Oh, now we lost because the course was too hard for our long hitters. Didn’t East Lake have the same set up, narrow fairways and thick rough. I don’t think the course caused Rickie or Phil to hit it into the water from the fairway. Sour grapes. The US just got their rump whipped. Stop making excuses

  4. Charles Griffin

    Sep 30, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    This isn’t new. It’s been done for at least two decades now.

  5. jim

    Sep 30, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    should have told many US players to ditch the drivers and hit 3 woods. it become more and more obvious as we watched and got to see more of the golf course.

    • A. Commoner

      Sep 30, 2018 at 7:19 pm

      Gee..that would have required very high level thinking! Not an original but …”play the course as you find it!”

  6. CrashTestDummy

    Sep 30, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    I was just thinking about this when watching the Ryder Cup. I was wondering who has the choice of the venue and course setup. The course clearly had an advantage for Europe as it favored the more accurate ball strikers that keep it in play. Narrow fairways, long rough, lots of water, etc. Keeping in the fairway was paramount this week. That is why Molinari won so many matches as he is one of the more accurate ball strikers.

    The US needs to keep this in mind to pick courses and setups that favor their players.

    • A. Commoner

      Sep 30, 2018 at 7:26 pm

      We, USA, already did that. Why would anybody think a bunch of altruists are in charge of course conditions?

  7. Tom Duckworth

    Sep 30, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    I agree with the other posts. If you are worried about players hitting it too far make the rough tougher make the fairways narrower. I’m sure the players will adjust I’m sure the big hitters on tour are good enough to dial it back a little and hit fairways if they had to.

  8. Johnny Penso

    Sep 30, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    Is that Rory or a young Mr. Bean in the picture above?

  9. Progolfer

    Sep 30, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    It was nice to see a golf course that emphasized skill, not just brute power like those on the PGA Tour. Le Golf National was a tough, but fair test. I wish they played more courses like that on the PGA Tour!

    • Johnny Penso

      Sep 30, 2018 at 2:43 pm

      For anyone that thinks players hit it too far, this course is the prototype answer to that question. Tough but fair, make the long ball more punished by a wayward hit, difficult rough etc.

    • JustJoeGolf

      Oct 1, 2018 at 11:31 am

      Hitting the ball far is just as much a skill as hitting it straight. It’s the combination of the two that is the ultimate skill.

      • Progolfer

        Oct 1, 2018 at 12:30 pm

        I don’t believe hitting the ball far is a skill. A skill demonstrates precision. Distance requires strength, not skill; accuracy requires skill, not strength.

        • John Reltso

          Oct 1, 2018 at 12:46 pm

          Distance requires plenty of skill. Look at Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Rickie Fowler, and plenty of others who aren’t necessarily that big or strong. They hit it far because they know how to create the right angles and use their lower bodies correctly. That takes plenty of skill.

        • Rman

          Oct 1, 2018 at 2:56 pm

          of course hitting the ball far is a skill! it requires great technique to do it!

          • Progolfer

            Oct 1, 2018 at 3:22 pm

            Obviously, hitting a ball 300 yards requires skill. It requires skill (which still means PRECISION) to make a good swing and hit it on the sweet spot with speed. That’s not the discussion. My point was that too many golf courses on the PGA Tour reward guys who try to hit it as hard as they can– which is NOT a skill in itself because anyone can do it– and don’t penalize players for missing their target (which requires skill!!). That’s why I like Le Golf National.

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