U.S. Ryder Cup team to gather at Whistling Straits for 2-day practice session. Why it could give them an edge.
The U.S. Ryder Cup team won’t make the same mistake twice.
This time, local knowledge won’t be a problem. U.S. Captain Steve Stricker is scheduled to host a two-day practice session at Whistling Straits, Sept. 12-13, with as many of the 12-man squad as possible.
“There’s a bunch of guys who haven’t played the golf course,” said U.S. assistant captain Davis Love III. “We might get everybody but at least as many as 10 guys will be up there to play a two-day practice round during this week off (on the PGA Tour).”
The reason for doing so is quite simple, Love explained.
“They had us over a barrel in Paris because we didn’t have enough practice rounds at (Le Golf National),” he said of the course that the European Tour played regularly as the annual site of the French Open. “The other team knew the golf course way better.”
But Love said that won’t happen again.
“We’re going to focus on breaking down the course over the next couple of weeks until we get there,” he said. “It’s important for us to gather local knowledge and pass it on to the guys that don’t have the intimate knowledge as guys like DJ.”
Whistling Straits has hosted the PGA Championship in 2004, 2010 and 2015, and several members of both sides will have played it before, but there’s still much to learn, Love said.
“In 2016, even though Hazeltine was a course we’d played in major championships, did we really know the course that well?” Love said. “Tiger helped us learn what questions to ask and what to look for. It’s not everybody hit 7-iron on this hole and it’s a 6. He said, ‘Let’s talk to the head pro, the best caddie, the top players among the members.’ Tiger showed us how to get ready for the course in ’16. We learned a lot of why he beat us all those years.”
It’s not unusual for a U.S. Ryder Cup captain to host a reconnaissance session. Love recalled Dave Stockton suggesting he play Kiawah in 1991 in case he picked him – he didn’t. In 1995, Lanny Wadkins organized a side trip to play Ryder Cup site Oak Hill during the week of the B.C. Open. Other Ryder Cup captains have held practice sessions for the overseas match around the British Open – Tom Kite hired a Gulfstream to take players to Valderrama in Spain to prepare; Tom Lehman did it for K Club and Jim Furyk did it for Le Golf National.
The difference is the timing – less than two weeks before the biennial competition begins – and the number of players.
“If Stricker pulls off 10 or more, he’ll have the most,” Love said.
Love, a two-time Ryder Cup captain, brought players to Medinah in 2012 and Hazeltine in 2016, but he invited 20 players ahead of time, well before he’d know for sure who was going to be on the team.
So, while many members of the European side will be busy competing at the BMW Championship in England, the U.S side will be gathering at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin on Sunday, Sept. 12 and Monday, Sept. 13 to prepare for the Ryder Cup so that by the time the biennial competition begins, the hard work will be done.
“This time we’re going to know our 12,” he said. “I told Brooks Koepka that Sunday night at The American Club two weeks outs might be one of the great weeks of your Ryder Cup experience.”
Home-field advantage, Love noted, should mean more than just a partisan crowd,
“I’m lobbying to stay for four days,” Love added. “we’re going to have more practice rounds than them, more rounds in major championships than them and our captains will know the course better than them.”