Captain's Blog: June
Hi everyone and welcome to the first of what will be a monthly Blog from me leading up to The 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National. It’s a tremendous honour to be Europe’s Ryder Cup Captain and I hope you will enjoy coming along on the journey with me between now and next September.
My First Appointment: Robert Karlsson……
A Ryder Cup captain has to make a lot of decisions in his time in the role and I know that some of my most important ones will be in my choice of Vice Captains. On that score, I think I’m off to a pretty decent start.
During the Nordea Masters in Sweden I announced Robert Karlsson as the first official member of my backroom team. I know from all the Ryder Cups I have been involved in, both as a player and vice-captain, it is vital to have people around that you trust implicitly and Robert most definitely fits into that category.
He’s one of my closest friends but not only that, he is immensely respected by all the players. His playing credentials are impressive, having been a former European Number One, and he also knows the unique atmosphere of The Ryder Cup, having represented Europe both home and away.
Robert will be a vital foil for me over the next 16 months in all aspects of our preparation and I know he will give me his honest opinion on everything I ask. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Suffice to say, I’m delighted to have him as part of the team.
There will be more Vice Captain announcements in due course – stay tuned!
Welcome Armel and Andriy…..
I played my first Ryder Cup at Valderrama in 1997 under the captaincy of the legendary Seve Ballesteros. As you can imagine it was a fantastic occasion being able to win not just for Seve and Spain, but for the whole of Europe.
I was thinking about that match the other day and one thing struck me, just how the sheer scale of The Ryder Cup has blossomed in those 20 years. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a huge deal back then but now, being captain, I can see how the whole infrastructure around the event has grown.
One example of that is the emergence in recent years of Ryder Cup Ambassadors, stars from the worlds of sport and entertainment who help spread the message of this unique contest through their own social media channels – now there’s another big difference from 20 years ago when Twitter was something that only birds did in the trees!
It was important to me that our first Ambassador was from France and in Armel Le Cléac’h, the yachtsman and recent Vendée Globe winner, we announced one of the country’s most celebrated stars on May 17 to mark 500 days to go. I know the adulation Armel enjoys from the French public and we are very much looking forward to enjoying the same backing next September.
We then followed that a couple of weeks’ later with Ukraine football legend Andriy Shevchenko who said at the time about The Ryder Cup: “It is a great event, one of the best in sport.” He’s right there!
Welcome to the ‘team’ Armel and Andriy!
Behind the scenes……
I have heard it from every captain in the past and it always tended to wash over me a little bit to be honest with you, but now I’m in that particular club I can reveal they are spot on – you really don’t know just how much goes on behind the scenes at The Ryder Cup until you are captain.
As a player, obviously the Ryder Cup came on your radar the closer you got to the actual contest but, even then, all you really did was turn up on the week and try and play the best you could.
As a captain, it’s totally different. It is always on your mind. There are a myriad of things that go on, on a weekly basis involving planning and preparation and meetings to discuss every aspect of the contest from hotels to transport to clothing to golf bags to team room design to announcements to social media to…….the list is endless.
There is a lot to deal with but, as I said at the start of this blog, it is a tremendous honour to be Ryder Cup captain and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Inside the ropes...
Any professional golfer will tell you that one of the main enemies to consistent play is rust. If you have any time away from the game it takes a while to shake that off and get back to being ‘match fit’. That’s what I have been finding of late.
After the Dubai Desert Classic at the beginning of February, my next tournament outing wasn’t until Morocco in mid-April, followed by the China Open a couple of weeks’ later. It perhaps wasn’t a surprise that I wasn’t around for the weekend in either of them.
But there were encouraging signs in both weeks and I was therefore pleased with my four rounds at my next two tournaments – The Rocco Forte Open and at the BMW PGA Championship, finishing tied 23rd in Sicily and 57th at Wentworth.
I didn’t have the best of weeks at the Nordea Masters a couple of weeks back but it is definitely a case of looking forwards and not backwards and one of my favourite events of the year – the BMW International Open in Germany – is next up for me as I continue to move towards my 500th event on Tour which, if my maths is correct, will be in the Made in Denmark tournament in August. What a week that will be!
Well done Wentworth…..
Speaking of Wentworth, I have to say I was really pleased with the reaction to the golf course from the players after the BMW PGA Championship.
The course – specifically the condition of the greens and certain aspects of the layout – had come in for some pretty fierce criticism over the past few years, so new owners Reignwood decided something had to be done about it.
They put their money where their mouth was and began the transformation immediately after last year’s tournament. All the greens were dug up – some were redesigned – but all were replaced with new grass and a sub-air system, while 29 bunkers were removed and all the ones which remained were rebuilt.
I was brought in to give a tournament players’ perspective, alongside Paul McGinley and David Jones, and I really enjoyed the exercise, working with the Ernie Els Design Team, European Golf Design and Wentworth head greenkeeper Kenny Mackay and his team.
Wentworth is an old style golf course and it had probably been a little over-modernised in recent years, so we tried to bring it back to where we thought it should be, not just for the professionals, but for the members who play there week in week out.
There are some original designs in the world that you have got to stick with and let the players play the course the way it was supposed to be played. I think Wentworth now is now a lot closer to where it was with still a modern twist to it, one that befits a great event like the BMW PGA Championship.
I hope you enjoyed my first Blog. Speak again next month.
European Ryder Cup Captain