PARIS (Reuters) - Europe team captain Thomas Bjorn should give his rookies game time on the first day of next week’s Ryder Cup to settle nerves on a French course that demands precision shot-making, Jean Van de Velde said on Friday.
Van de Velde, one of only three Frenchmen to ever play in the Ryder Cup, speaks from personal experience: he was forced to sit out the first two days in the 1999 competition and lost his Sunday singles.
“It’s stressful, there’s tension. I believe you have to put them in the tournament as fast as you can,” Van de Velde told Reuters by phone from southern Spain.
“Then at least you see how they are reacting to the pressure. Because there is no room for fragility.”
Dane Thomas Bjorn has selected five Ryder Cup first-timers — Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen and Jon Rahm — as he seeks to extend Europe’s 25-year-unbeaten run on home soil.
Ryder Cups can be won and lost on the captains’ decisions on pairings and when to put out his players over the three-day tournament. Van de Velde said his captain Mark James exhausted his experienced team members by over-playing them early on.
“You put two rookies together (on the first day) and what’s the worst that can happen? You lose a point. But they play, they’re in it.”
Next week’s Ryder Cup is the first ever hosted by France, a country whose love for golf is lukewarm at best and which has failed to produce a major champion since 1907.
Van de Velde came close at the British Open in 1999 but ended up producing one of the most iconic images in golf, standing shin-deep in water on the 18th at Carnoustie and squandering a three-shot lead. He went on to lose the playoff.
The National Golf’s Albatros outside Paris has no shortage of its own water hazards.
“Power is always a plus in your game but that’s not what you need at the National,” Van de Velde said. “At the National you need to know where to hit the ball to access the pin.”
“Some holes are very deceiving. The better you know the course the more advantage you have. It’s position shots here,” he added.
Home to the French Open, it is a course many European Tour players know well. It is less familiar to their U.S. rivals.
“You look at the European team and which guy would you be very happy to play. The Europeans don’t have to be shy of anything,” added Van de Velde, who will be appearing at the Farmfoods European Senior Masters at the Forest of Arden Marriott Hotel next month.
Reporting by Richard Lough, editing by Pritha Sarkar