Hi everyone and welcome to the latest of my monthly blogs as we continue the journey towards The 2018 Ryder Cup. It’s hard to believe that a year ago this week I was getting on a plane to Hazeltine and now here we are with a year to go to Le Golf National. It really is amazing how quickly time goes by, and I have no doubt the next 12 months will be exactly the same.
And they’re off…..
I spoke last month about looking forward to the points race getting underway and the first few tournaments have produced some wonderful performances. I did have a little chuckle to myself when I saw the last three winners on Tour mind you – A 2016 Ryder Cup player (Matthew Fitzpatrick), a Frenchman (Romain Wattel) and a Dane (Lucas Bjerregaard)! It was almost like I’d written a wish-list! I fully appreciate it is very early days in the overall process, but by the end of this season in Dubai in November we will start to get a proper indication of how things are shaping up. It is going to make for some very interesting viewing over the next few months.
Excitement and anticipation…..
I was in France again at the beginning of last week, spending a day with some of the young Elite Squad members of the French Golf Federation. It was a fantastic trip and it was nice to have an opportunity to speak to some of the young golfing talent from France and also to see just how much they are looking forward to The Ryder Cup being in their home country. You get a great indication of things to come for next September through their excitement and anticipation. I also spent a little bit of time on the course at Le Golf National. The work is continuing on and around the course itself which is great to see. The range is now being built and there are lots of other things that are progressing. We are used to playing the Open de France there at the end of June, so last week gave me a more realistic feel for what conditions will be like in September when The Ryder Cup is played.
Well done GB&I…..
I tweeted a congratulatory message to Albert MacKenzie and the GB&I team last weekend but I want to reiterate once again how great it was to see their victory in the latest PGA Cup match against the United States at Foxhills last week. A lot of the team were ex-European Tour players, guys I have grown up with and spent a lot of time with on Tour over the years, and that made it doubly gratifying to see such a great performance. They did extremely well, especially in the singles on Sunday, to win 16-10. I spent some time with Albert when he came down to the BMW PGA Championship in May and I know just how much time and effort he put into the captaincy, so it was good to see him, and the team, get their just rewards.
I was hopeful of getting back into action in the British Masters at Close House this week, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. I’ve had neck issues for a while now and they resurfaced as I was getting ready for the Pro-Am which meant I had to withdraw from that and the tournament itself which was very disappointing. This came on the back of a foot injury which forced me to retire from the first round in Switzerland three weeks ago when I was playing with two of our up and coming talents – Jordan Smith and Renato Paratore – and that was particularly frustrating. I have said all along that one of the most important things is that I am out here playing alongside the guys who are trying to make the team. Don’t get me wrong, you get a useful perspective watching from the sidelines, but there is nothing quite like being out there on the course with them. So, I will be looking after myself and planning my schedule carefully over the next 12 months to allow me to do that. As for getting back into action, I remain hopeful of being back inside the ropes for next week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in St Andrews.
Managing my time…..
Although I didn’t manage to play, the British Masters week was useful in the respect that it gave me time to pencil in a number of meetings with a range of people relating to the many and varied aspects of The Ryder Cup. I have spoken before about that aspect of the captaincy and it is something I understood when I accepted the role – this week is another important example of having to manage my time properly. All the meetings I have had, however, have progressed well and I feel we are on track with the level of detail required in all the different areas. It’s also interesting to see how the meetings themselves are becoming real too. In the early weeks and months, a lot of them were conceptual, but now you can see things beginning to take shape and actual products emerging. It’s very exciting.
Although by the actual calendar, this week is the Year to Go for The 2018 Ryder Cup, the celebratory two-day event planned is coming up in Paris and Versailles on October 16-17. I am looking forward to it very much and, in particular, having everybody together, from both sides, who are involved in The Ryder Cup. In the end, when it comes down to the week itself, we are Europe, they are the US, we will do our thing, they will do theirs and we will be competing against one another. But in so many other ways we are working together to try and embrace one of the biggest events in world sport – and the Year to Go Celebration is a perfect example of that. As much as Jim and I will be very competitive during the match week, we have a lot of respect for each other and as a result we try and make all these things happen in the best possible way.
An important legacy…..
I mentioned earlier about spending some time in France last week and I want to end with a further reflection on that. When you meet people in that country, many of whom have devoted ten years of their lives to The Ryder Cup, it is quite humbling when you see the pride they have and what next September will mean to them. In many ways, The Ryder Cup is like a child’s birthday party – you go to one and the next one has to be a little bit better and so on. The people in France want this Ryder Cup to be the best there has ever been and to work with people who have that determination is great to see. I am only the Captain and in the grand scheme of things my job really is to look after the 12 players, but The Ryder Cup is so much more than that. It has a legacy for golf in France, it has a legacy for golf in general and it has a responsibility to the game worldwide. I am a curious person by nature. I like hearing what other people do and how they get stuck into things and, in Ryder Cup terms, it is even more interesting because everyone involved – either directly or indirectly – will eventually affect what we are all trying to achieve. It is quite a thought.
Until next time……..