Hi everyone and welcome to the latest of my monthly blogs along the journey to Le Golf National in September. In many ways you can characterise my thoughts this month through the letter ‘F’ – in terms of France, Figo, format, future and following in famous footsteps.
Those of you who follow social media will have seen the news over the past week or so that both Grégory Havret and Raphaël Jacquelin have agreed to be part of my general backroom team for The Ryder Cup. I asked them a few weeks back and I was delighted when they both said yes. They are passionate and patriotic Frenchmen and were also two of the proudest people after the Year to Go event last year, that pride stemming from how we showcased their country and their capital city to the world that week. The home crowds who come to Le Golf National in September will be delighted to see them and I know they will both revel in helping the European cause in any way they can. As far as announcing my remaining Vice Captains is concerned however, as I have said before, watch this space!
As well as assembling the main European Team for The 42nd Ryder Cup in four months’ time, behind the scenes the team at Ryder Cup Europe are also pulling together the European Team for the Celebrity Europe v USA Match which will be played on the Tuesday afternoon of event week. On that note, I was delighted to see today we announced that former World Footballer of the Year Luis Figo will be part of our team, joining actor Jamie Dornan who was announced last month. If there is anyone who knows what it is like to part of a successful team it is Luis Figo, a man who won virtually everything there was to win in football including La Liga titles in Spain with both Barcelona and Real Madrid – no mean feat in itself! Here’s hoping he can add another trophy to his cabinet at Le Golf National and get Europe off to a winning start!
With just over four months to go to the first tee shot in The Ryder Cup, I can confirm that that shot will be part of a fourball format. Fourballs will be played first on both Friday and Saturday with foursomes in the afternoon on both days. It is a tried and tested formula for Europe in home Ryder Cups and one we have enjoyed success with, so I am more than happy to stick with it in Paris. A glance at the record books shows that we played fourballs first and foursomes second at Gleneagles in 2014, at Celtic Manor in 2010, at The K Club in 2006, at The Belfry in 2002 and at Valderrama in 1997. A repeat of all those results will do me very nicely come the end of September!
I was thrilled to make history at the beginning of this month when myself and Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew became the first male and female professionals to play together in a match play contest in the Tour’s innovative GolfSixes event. Obviously, we would have loved to have made it through to the knockout stages, but the main thing was we were part of something special and something which could really be the alternative future for our game. GolfSixes is a great format, it’s fun and it’s something that everyone can get involved with. It is great to see that clubs and Federations across Europe are starting to embrace the concept, with both adults and kids playing. I say this all the time, in professional golf there are too many 72-hole stroke play tournaments, so much so that they can disappear into each other. Tournaments need to stand out and GolfSixes certainly does that.
I am proud and honoured to be The 2018 Ryder Cup Captain and much of that pride stems from the fact I am fully aware I am carrying on the tradition of one of the world’s leading sporting events. Nowadays, The Ryder Cup is a global phenomenon but, as with all things, it had to start somewhere, and I was delighted to be able to take the time, during GolfSixes, to visit the town of St Albans where it did. St Albans was the home of Samuel Ryder, who had the idea in 1927 to stage a match between British and American professionals – I bet he wouldn’t believe what his match idea has become today! Thanks to local councillor Annie Brewster we visited the Town Hall which is being renovated as a museum and which will feature Ryder Cup memorabilia at its core; we visited the renovated Magistrates Court in the Town Hall where Samuel himself sat as Chief Magistrate in the early 1900s; and we also paid a visit to the place in the town where he first caught the golfing bug – Verulam Golf Club. Everywhere the Ryder Cup trophy goes it gets an amazing reception, but you can imagine that to take it to the place where Samuel Ryder himself golfed was extra special for today’s members and I think we saw that in the reaction we got from them that night. I have always said that in golf it is vitally important to remember where things came from, and that is true for The Ryder Cup too. Therefore, to be able to follow in Samuel Ryder’s precise footsteps, to sit where he sat and see the places where the idea of The Ryder Cup was actually born was amazing. It was a fantastic thing to do and very humbling.
There is no doubt that our qualification tables, both the European and the World Points Lists, are starting to take shape. But there is also no doubt that the final push for the line starts next week at Wentworth with the BMW PGA Championship. Apart from being the first of this season’s Rolex Series events, it is also the first tournament where the points gained for both lists are multiplied by 1.5. That will be the case from now until the final counting event – Made in Denmark – at my home club of Silkeborg at the end of August. I have always said that current form is one of the most important attributes players can take into a Ryder Cup and I think this process will further help identify that. I am looking forward very much to see how it all unfolds.
Until next time………