SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The layout at Le Golf National has a distinctly European feel, and captain Thomas Bjorn hopes to keep it that way at the Ryder Cup.
Gone are the wide fairways and short rough of Hazeltine, where the Americans bombed and gouged their way to their first team victory in nearly a decade. This week players will encounter one of the tightest and most demanding tracks on the European Tour, where water lurks around nearly every corner.
“Well this is a tough golf course, to start with,” Bjorn said Tuesday. “I like the idea of a golf course that’s set up like a championship golf course. You’ve got to identify guys that are hitting the golf ball well. Identify guys that are playing good golf that week.”
Unlike the other recent Ryder Cup host venues on this side of the Atlantic, Le Golf National is somewhat of a known entity in that it annually hosts the European Tour’s French Open. It’s a tournament that Ryder Cup rookies Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren have won each of the last two years, while teammates Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia both cracked the top 10 in June.
That should give the Europeans an advantage when it comes to familiarity, and Bjorn’s plans for course setup included a desire to ensure the experience factor for his players would still be relevant this week amid larger-than-normal grandstands.
“There’s guys on this team that have played a lot of French Opens. I don’t want them to show up and it’s a completely different golf course to what they are used to,” Bjorn said. “This is very similar to what it is normally.”
Despite the similarities in setup, there will still be plenty of adjustments for the American squad. Justin Thomas was the only U.S. player to make the trek for this year’s French Open, and captain Jim Furyk admitted that only six of his 12 players had seen the course at all prior to this week.
“We’re just trying to figure it out,” Furyk said. “Europe knows this golf course well. They have played the French Open here. We’re trying to figure out the setup and what they have in store for the week.”