Gary Player: Europe’s Ryder Cup victory was hard earned

The Europeans played the better golf on a course that they were more familiar with and were deserved winners of this year’s Ryder Cup in Paris.

It may have come as a big surprise to many golf followers when the European Team cruised to a spectacular seven- point victory in The Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris. In my Introduction in September’s edition of Worldwide Golf I predicted that although the United States team, on paper, seemed to have the edge, the European Team had home advantage and were far more familiar with the Albatros course.

I conceded that the Americans had an incredibly strong team, with eight qualifiers who had won more than eight Majors between them, compared to the relatively inexperienced European Team who were fielding five rookies. I did make the point that if ever the United States team were on course to keep the cup and win away from home, now was the ideal time.

Nevertheless, it was an amazing victory for Europe, equal to the Miracle of Medinah, and played on a hell of a golf course, surrounded by an astonishing ‘wall-of-sound’ type atmosphere from the legion of mainly European spectators.

But the underlying deciding factor was that the Europeans were on home soil. They had not lost a Ryder Cup in Europe since 1993. I’ve heard all the arguments that European players tend to bond together more effectively than the Americans and that they play as a team but that is irrelevant. I think Team USA has the Ryder Cup in their heads but Europe has it in their hearts.

The reason is more obvious than that. The Europeans simply played better than their American counterparts. They merely hit the ball more accurately, which was the key to their success. The Albatros course had been played by the Europeans more frequently than the Americans, in the Open de France. They were familiar with the characteristics of the course and it clearly suited their game, which for most of them is based on accuracy and not out and out distance.

The whole purpose of the game of golf is to hit the ball straight and keep it in play. Play each shot to land it precisely where you want it to be. A one-inch putt is exactly the same value as a 300-yard-plus drive.

Aside from making a good start on the Friday morning, the Americans looked out of sorts and at odds with the Albatros course. For the most part, they kept their drivers in the bag for fear of finding water and the clinging rough, but even then, many of these world-leading players were not accurate using irons, hybrids or 3-woods from the tee while the Europeans cleverly plotted their way round the course and rose to the occasion when it most mattered.

That is basically the difference between European golf and American golf. It was said that the course was tailor-made for the European Team, which is understandable but, then, when The Ryder Cup switches to the USA at Whistling Straits the course will undoubtedly be prepared to suit the big bombers.

The current obsession with long-hitting is in great danger of killing the game as we know it. I’ve repeatedly warned that unless the powers that be can limit the distance the ball travels we will continue to make some of our most famous and iconic golf courses obsolete.

Misplaced Idea

THE idea of staging a match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson the day after Thanksgiving, as a ‘pay-per- view’ event – winner takes all of the $9 million prizemoney – seems totally misplaced. For two of golf’s multi- millionaires to go head to head in a match play format seems meaningless to me. Why not use the prizemoney to create a Tour which would enable up and coming youngsters to get into competitive tournament golf. Or, other than that, donate it to charity. I would be more interested if they played with their own money too.