So Stenson, Poulter, Garcia from Europe miss out in the morning, while Mickelson, DeChambeau, Watson and Simpson sit it out for the US. But there’s some tasty match-ups in there, Reed and Woods taking on Molinari and Fleetwood looking a particular draw. What do we reckon?
Match 4: Reed and Woods v Molinari and Fleetwood
Match 3: Spieth and Thomas v Casey and Hatton
Match 2: Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler v Rory McIlroy and
Match 1 Koepka and Fina v Rose and Rahm
Back to the choons now, as Jain struts gingerly across the stage, performing her jaunty synth-poppy hit Alright. A tricky gig for a 26-year-old, this sort of thing, you’d imagine.
Here comes Thomas Bjørn. A minute or so of “Ole” delay his address. “I can say hand on heart that I’ve never felt prouder than I do now standing here as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain. To lead these 12 players is a tremendous honour and I’m thrilled to do it against the [distant] backdrop of one of the great cities of the world.” Generous thanks to Le Golf National’s staff and officials ensue. “Every country in Europe is proud of its history but perhaps there’s none with a greater heritage than France … from hitting golf balls off the Eiffel Tower to dining at the Palace of Versailles, the journey here has been memorable.…”
His vice-captains are then introduced, with Graeme McDowell getting probably the biggest cheer. “This great sporting occasion is the one time when Europe is united,” he says, adding some poignant geopolitics. “When it comes to the Ryder Cup Europe stands as one. The history books show that together we have achieved many great things. This week we will strive to add our own chapter to that story. I can think of no better group to take on that task … We will play with passion, commitment and pride, but more than anything else we will play for that flag.” And with that, the players are introduced, Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy probably being the most rapturously received of a warmly cheered bunch.
Jim Furyk addresses the crowd and digs deep into history: “What an honour it is to be standing before you today; it is a privilege to serve as US captain and a pleasure to do so in France … the story of America … cannot be told without the close bond that has tied America and France together, from Lafayette standing alongside Washington, to the gift of the Statue of Liberty, to our alliance in the struggle for liberty in the 20th century. This week as a token of our bond we have badges with the symbol of the Statue of Liberty emblazoned on them … while inside the ropes we compete against each other, outside them we stand alongside each other.” No cheese-eating surrender monkey stuff here.
He pays tribute to his wife, Tabitha, for her support, and offers a misty-eyed thanks to his parents and the players’ spouses and partners, who are sat behind them at the back of the stage, caddies and hosts at Le Golf National. He then tells Bjorn he is “more than a competitor, you are a friend”. It’s all sentimental stuff – “greatest spectacle in golf” etc – but sets a nice tone before he introduces his vice-captains David Duval, Matt Kuchar (who gets some hearty jeers), Davis Love and Steve Stricker. Patrick Reed, predictably, is the booing target when the actual team are introduced, while Mickelson and, equally predictably, Woods draw the biggest cheers (though there’s the odd jeer for the latter). Furyk signs off with “Vive le golf!”
We are go. The team anthems are played: The Star Spangled Banner and Ode to Joy ensue, signalling the official start of proceedings, apparently.
Ginola introduces the captains, Furyk and Bjørn. Furyk says the most difficult part, as captain and player, is watching. Bjørn says the past 20 months “has been a fantastic experience”. The “ole, ole, ole, ole” chants suggest a decent-sized Irish contingent are in. The USA team are introduced, to some cheers and the odd boo, all donning shades (except Patrick Reed, the iconoclastic rebel) and sombre dark jackets and cream-coloured trousers. Their European opponents are attired in dark navy blue, all in sunglasses, fashion liveblog fans.
And a French tricolore flypast follows. Our MC, Ginola, is now introducing from among the crowd, in old-school Top of the Pops style. “Make some noise,” he yells, so the Europeans behind him do. Time for the national anthem – Le Marseillaise never fails to hit the spot.
We’re underway! The purpose-built arena is thronged, the stage is set, it’s a beautiful autumn early evening, and we have a David Ginola voiceover on the big screen. “The eyes of the world are on this beautiful city again,” he coos. “Heroes will be made, legends will be forged, and one time will emerge victorious.” You get the gist.
And Kaiser Chiefs kick off their set with Ruby, their only UK No 1, fact fans. The crowd sit dutifully. A moshpit there ain’t.
Just a reminder of tomorrow’s schedule, before we learn the first pairings. The morning matches will tee off at 7.10am, 7.25am, 7.40am, and 7.55am BST. Afternoon pairings will be available after the morning session for matches that begin at 12.50pm, 1.05pm, 1.20pm and 1.35pm.
Less than 10 minutes to go till the (figurative) curtain goes up now. Meanwhile, the USA have narrowly edged the captains’ match with Crenshaw and Sutton beating James and Olazábal by one hole and halved their match with Jacklin and McGinley halving their contest against Pavin and Lehman.
Brooks Koepka has been recalling a scary incident from earlier in his career. This from PA:
… back in 2013 the 28-year-old was competing on the second-tier Challenge Tour – where he won three times to earn promotion to the European Tour – and endured a scary experience during a tournament in Nairobi.
Asked in his pre-Ryder Cup press conference for his best story from that time, Koepka said: “There’s a lot of them. There’s definitely some interesting ones. I mean, getting lost in Kenya and being in a taxi, and I thought the guy was going to kill us.
“He took us on a joyride, a bunch of guys hopped out of the gas station, tried to get in the car. I even called my family to try to turn my [phone’s] location services on to try to tell them where we were at.
“If we were supposed to go left, we went right and went into… it wasn’t the best part of town, put it that way.”
Koepka is one of just three American players to have experienced Le Golf National in competition, missing the cut in the French Open in 2014, but the bad news for Europe is that it reminds him of a major championship venue.
Three of Koepka’s four PGA Tour titles have come in majors and the world number three added: “I don’t have any interesting stories from when I was here last time. I actually stayed right by kind of where we’re staying now.
“I remember going into town, going to the Palace of Versailles, checking it out, doing a couple of touristy things. I didn’t know at the time I was going to be back here playing the Ryder Cup. You kind of hope for it, but you don’t really know what’s going to happen.
“It’s a beautiful city. It was fun to kind of walk around and enjoy the town. But as far as the golf goes, this was probably one of the best golf courses and exciting golf courses, because it kind of reminds me of a major championship.
“There’s a disaster around every corner. Every shot, you’ve got to be very focused. I mean, you miss a fairway, both guys miss a fairway in alternate-shot [foursomes], bogey could even win the hole.”
And now, one of the American rookies, Tony Finau, is up: “My parents sacrificed a lot for me to be in this position. Golf is an extremely expensive sport, and growing up, I didn’t come from a lot, but my parents sacrificed a lot for me to compete, and my goals were their goals. My family is a big part of why I’m here, and they have given up a lot.”
Asked what has given him the greatest confidence-boost, he replies: “Well, in my life, marrying my wife, because she’s really beautiful. That gave me a lot of confidence personally. I look at her every morning, and I’m like: I’m pretty lucky. In my golf career, this is up there, making this team. You look at the guys that are on our team and the guys that are on The European Team, to throw my name in the mix is something that is really cool for me right now.”
On the challenges of the course for one of the game’s biggest hitters, he admits that Le Golf National can take the driver out of his hands “Yeah, for the most part. I think four to six drivers I’ll hit per round this week, obviously depending on how many holes we play, of course. But if I were to play 18, I would hit four to six, and on the PGA tour, I’m probably hitting more like 10 to 12. In that aspect it does take driver out of my hands. It’s a golf course that you have to hit the fairway, no matter what club you hit, 3-iron, 4-iron, and it’s a great test. It’s going to be great.”
Almost halfway through the captains’ match, Pavin and Lehman are one up on McGinley and Jackman after nine holes, with Olazábal/James and Crenshaw/Sutton all-square through eight.
Back to present-day competitors, Rickie Fowler has been up before the media ahead of his fourth appearance in the competition. “Phil (Mickelson) said he wasn’t able to truly appreciate Ryder Cups until playing a handful himself,” Fowler said. “The week flies by so fast but I’m in a position now where we know what to expect, you can take things in a bit more and enjoy the ride. It’s nice that Friday is coming up because things are moving a bit slower which allows me to relax and get ready to go play some golf. I am enjoying being four teams in and in a position to soak it up a bit more.”
Some perky pre-tournament media chat from in-form US players. Dustin Johnson reckons Europe will be jolted and the USA pepped up by his having regained the world No 1 slot from Justin Rose last weekend. Asked if it could be a psychological blow to Europe, he said: “Sure. For me, yeah. I like being [number] one.”
Brooks Koepka, winner of three majors in the past 15 months, is confident his hot streak can continue. “I don’t see why it has to end. If I keep doing what I’m doing, I don’t see why it should stop,” he said. “I’ve been playing well and I always seem to get up for the big events.”
Thanks John, Tom returning for the afternoon session and opening ceremony, having similarly struggled for Kaiser Chief-related puns. Funny position for a band to be in though, their best days a decade behind them, playing to a packed audience of fans full of passion … for something else. What would a Ryder Cup/Kaiser Chiefs fandom venn diagram look like?
Over at Le Golf National Sean Ingle has fired up his abacus …
Camaraderie in the US team during their practice rounds today …
Hello all. John Ashdown here briefly taking over from Tom while he heads to get some lunch.
I’ve tried and failed for the past 10 minutes to come up with some serviceable Kaiser Chiefs-golf puns. If only the opening ceremony featured the Chiefs’ 2005-era alumni Hard-Fi and their first album Pars of CCTV. Here all week, try the veal, etc and so forth.
With three hours to go to the opening ceremony, here’s a taster of what we can expect. It’ll be hosted by David Ginola (er, naturally), and include music from the Kaiser Chiefs and French artist Jain, after which the captains introduce the teams and name their pairings.
“The excitement is building,” roars Stephen Pye in an email. “I’m off tonight to buy my own body weight in Guinness and salted snacks, and I can’t wait another minute (as Five Star once said). I’m very tempted with the 12/1 being offered on the draw. I also wondered if you might be interested in this blog I have written on Eamonn Darcy becoming a Ryder Cup hero on this day in 1987?”
At a time like this, the Ryder Cup is sure to be divined for political symbolism. And here’s an interesting read from Angelique Chrisafis and David Smith.
“In the midst of Brexit negotiations – and a Brexit which is struggling to work out – the Ryder Cup is the chance to see Europeans together and united facing the US, that is a good image,” said Jean-Baptiste Guégan, a Paris-based lecturer on geopolitics and sport.… He added: “There will surely be an element of nationalism coming into play somewhere. For Donald Trump, this is one of the rare sports he plays. He’ll watch this event, he’ll make use of it.”
The traditional past captains match is under way. It pits the USA’s Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman, Ben Crenshaw and Hal Sutton against Europe’s Tony Jacklin, Paul McGinley, Mark James and José María Olazábal. And for what it’s worth the 74-year-old Jacklin, partnering McGinley against Pavin and Lehman, has just sent a wonderful drive onto the green on the par-three 3rd, though he misses his birdie putt. The hole is halved and the America pair remain one up.
Nostalgia corner – feast your eyes on this Ryder Cup gallery:
“Looks like an American-style course,” says simonsaint BTL. “Anyone know who designed it?” A vexed question, this. The French golfing federation commissioned the French building architect Hubert Chesneau to lead the project in 1985, but the vastly more golf-savvy designer Robert von Hagge (b Chicago) was subsequently enlisted by Chesneau, alongside Frenchman Pierre Thevenin.
Paul Casey has been speaking ahead of his first Ryder Cup for a decade. is determined to make the most of what could be the 41-year-old’s last Ryder Cup in Europe.
Casey gave up his European Tour membership in order to concentrate on getting back inside the world’s top 50, which was vindicated when the world No 21 won the Valspar Championship in March, which helped earned his subsequent wild card from Thomas Bjørn.
“I made the decision to rejoin the Tour almost two years ago and so to be sitting here now is very satisfying, very enjoyable,” Casey said. “I think I’ve got more of an appreciation this time around. I’ve taken notes this week and tried to really pay attention to how special this is.
“At 41 I don’t know how many opportunities I’m going to get to play another European-based Ryder Cup. I don’t want this to be my last, but plain and simple, at 41, it’s got a chance that it is. So I just want to make sure that I pay attention to it and enjoy it, deliver points, play my heart out, but enjoy it at the same time.”
Amid all the talk of local indifference, there’s plenty of people in:
So what’s it like to play Le Golf National if you’re an amateur hacker? Our man Gerard Meagher had a go, and found himself in the drink a fair bit, before needing and savouring one at the end:
The course is called L’Albatros – optimistically named for your high-teens handicapper – and has an ocean of water. On the walk from the clubhouse it becomes clear there are not nearly enough balls in your bag and the one with a Ryder Cup emblem you’ve just paid through the roof for is not long for this world. Not the dry part of it anyway.
How will the atmosphere shape up in a less-then-golf-crazy country, after all the whoopin’ and hollerin’ of Hazeltine two years ago? Andy Bull takes the temperature here:
Meanwhile, Sean Ingle writes on Europe’s own vocal partisans, the Guardians of the Cup, a kind-of combination of cricket’s Barmy Army and Fanatics and that England football band, whose lyrical masterpieces include reworkings of Bare Necessities in praise of Rory McIlroy (“Look for the Rory McIlroy, the awesome Rory McIlroy, Forget about your worries and your strife …”), Gold in homage to Justin Rose (“Justin Rose – ROSE!, always believe in your swi-ng, Who’s number one? It’s him!”) and, predicatbly, O Sole Mio for Francesco Molinari (“Just one Francesco/Give him to me …” etc). Paul McGinley says the players love them. “We love atmosphere and the players thrive off it,” he chirps:
Some slightly concerning fitness news from the American camp. Bubba Watson is struggling with illness, and said a number of his team-mates were feeling off-colour and fatigued. Still a day to go though.
How much does it all mean to Americans though? Here’s Bryan Armen Graham on why there might be a spike in interest this time, much of it down to you know who:
The splashy resurgence of Tiger Woods – the headline attraction of Jim Furyk’s USA team after a litany of back operations relegated him to a vice-captain’s role at Hazeltine two years ago – is exactly what’s needed to broaden the reach of an event that stirs highly concentrated enthusiasm among golf’s niche audience Stateside, but seldom crosses over to the sports-shouting shows on cable TV and the column-inches above the fold
Morning everyone. The Ryder Cup is nearly upon us, bringing with it as many subplots and points of intrigue as this tournament has bestowed. The hype and hoopla seems to get ratcheted up that bit more with each edition, but there’s no doubt that there’s plenty to get our teeth into.
We may be talking about a team game but there’s no escaping the stardust sprinkled on this year’s buildup by Tiger Woods, fresh from his stunning Tour Championship triumph last week, which seemingly completed his career journey from cold-eyed ruthless major-gatherer through disgraced fallen genius to affectionately regarded Great Old Champion. But he’s lost more Ryder Cups than he’s won so can he make a dent in that record here? On the European side, Will Thomas Bjørn’s contentious faith in another seasoned campaigner, Sergio García, be vindicated in a team featuring five rookies?
And Bjørn has rung the changes on the final day of practice. Europe’s captain appeared to offer a hint to potential pairings for Friday’s afternoon foursomes matches. Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Ian Poulter and Thorbjørn Olesen made up the opening group, with Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson in the second. Paul Casey, García, Tyrrell Hatton and Alex Norén were in the final group, Noren having won the French Open at Le Golf National in July.
The USA’s captain Jim Furyk kept Woods, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas in the same group for the second day running, with a Woods-Reed pairing looking increasingly certain. Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau were in the same group for the third day in succession and were joined by Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson, while the final group contained former partners Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson, and Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka.
We’ll be providing regular updates of the day’s buildup, including news on pairings and culminating in the opening ceremony at 4pm BST.
Here’s the teams’ Ryder Cup records: