PARIS (Reuters) - Local knowledge and course management are key ingredients to golfing success at any level and, despite the wealth of stellar talent in the US team, Europe’s mastery of both have played a huge role in their flying start to this year’s Ryder Cup.
It is the home team’s prerogative to set the course up how they like and it is hardly revolutionary for Europe to favor shorter, tighter fairways with punishing rough to try to take the sting out of the generally longer-hitting Americans.
What has been surprising at Le Golf National, however, is how the visitors have generally failed to adapt their game and seen hole after hole lost due to loose shots from tee and fairway, where the thick, clinging rough causes huge problems.
Conversely, Europe’s best performers, led by four-win pairing Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood, have generally negotiated their way round the course with precision, keeping the ball in play more often, and reaping the benefits.
All the Europeans, of course, are more familiar with the course via its hosting of the French Open, won by Fleetwood last year and Alex Noren this July, while Molinari has been runner-up three times.
By contrast, only six of the Americans had set foot on it before their first practice rounds on Tuesday.
Both captains did their best to play down the impact, suggesting that the cream of the game should be sufficiently talented to adapt to any new course.
Bjorn, however, accepted that his players had tried to make it a strength.
“It’s difficult to argue when you’ve got players like Alex and Tommy who have won around here,” he said. “Francesco has played good golf around this course, and it suits his game, and he will be the first to admit that.
“These two days we probably found a better way around it. We have played well. I feel like we’ve been out on the course and done the right things.”
Furyk said he thought he had done a “pretty good job” in getting half his team over to play some practice rounds on the course earlier in the year.
He also made the point that when he won the US Open it was on a course he had not played before, but accepted the home team had played it better.
“I’ve been saying all week that one of the things that Ryder Cup Europe does so well is that they hold this event on a venue their team knows very well,” he said.
“When I was named captain, I can’t tell you how many European players said, ‘You’re going to love this course’, and they were correct.
“It’s a great test. I also think their players know it very well and are very prepared for it. A world-class player should be able to prepare and get ready, but that little local course knowledge helps.
“But we’ve been outplayed and I don’t think there’s a guy in my team room would argue with me. Right now, they have played better golf, and we have to be able to do just that tomorrow.”
Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Neville Dalton