Jordan Spieth reckons the 42nd Ryder Cup could be won by “fist-pump pars” rather than the barrage of birdies golf fans around the world have been treated to in the biennial event in recent stagings.
According to the Texan, Le Golf National, venue for only the second staging of the match in Continental Europe, is going to provide a tough test for the two star-studded teams due to it being tight off the tee and the rough also being pretty penal.
“I don’t think you’ll go anywhere else where you’ll see as many fist-pump pars as you’ll see this week, especially in the afternoon foursomes when the wind picks up,” observed Spieth. “It was windy yesterday and we were playing best-ball and there weren’t that many birdies outside the par 5s.
“You’ll know when holes are won and who won holes, but I don’t think there will be as many roars like there were when a lot of putts were made at Hazeltine (where the Americans won two years ago).”Spieth, the 2017 Open champion, wasn’t complaining about the course set up as that’s not his style. In fact, he’s the type to relish the challenge this week, which might not necessarily be the case for some of his team-mates, notably Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson.
“This is a unique and exciting test for us players,” added Spieth. “It may not be as exciting for the fans that are there watching. Obviously if their side is winning, they are going to be as excited, but you just won’t see that many birdie opportunities as we saw at Hazeltine just because if you miss the fairway, you’re fighting for par.”
This is Spieth’s third successive appearance in the event, having made his debut at Gleneagles four years ago. “I loved 2014,” he admitted, despite having ended up on a losing team on that occasion. “I thought probably the most nerve-wracking tee shot I’ve ever hit was in 2014. It’s one of the coolest moments of my golf career was getting started there, and playing an away game.
“Growing up as a golfer, representing your country in the Ryder Cup is an ultimate goal for us. It hasn’t disappointed. If anything, it’s been understated by players ahead of the tournament. But it lives up and passes its hype.”
Justin Thomas, one of just three rookies in the US team, the others being Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau, has been nursing a wrist injury but doesn’t envisage that proving a problem for him. “Could I play five matches? I’d play six if I could,” he declared. “The wrist is fine. It looks worse than it is. It’s just the white tape on top of the K.T. tape, it’s more prevention. It’s not going to get any worse. I could easily play without it, but my team feels that it’s best if I play with it.
“It didn’t hurt last week (in the Tour Championship), which was great. At the end of the day, if the captain (Jim Furyk) needs me to go five, I’ll go five. If he needs me to go two or three, I’ll go two or three. Whatever it is, I’ll be ready to go.”
Bubba Watson, back here for the first time since his outburst during the 2011 French Open, conducted his pre-match press conference in a croaky voice and claimed that the American players were “all battling something” at the end of a long season coupled with trip across the Atlantic.
Earlier in the day, as the visitors made their way to the traditional team photo shoot, it appeared as though Tiger Woods looked a bit stiff, but Furyk insisted he has no concerns about the man who had already earned his wildcard before winning that Tour Championship in Atlanta on Sunday.
“I don’t think that there were any issues,” insisted the US captain. “I was a little stiff on the way to the range, too, this morning. It was about 42 degrees. I watched him play a few holes. He doesn’t look stiff at all. So I think it’s probably just some folks guessing.
“He’s probably stretching. Probably trying to stay loose. There’s been no issues reported out there or anything that I’m worried about. It’s actually news to me right there, to be honest with you.”