ITS GOING TO BE A BIG PARTY . . . FOR SOMEBODY
AN UNUSUAL DISORDER seems to overcome tour professionals who have played the Albatros Course at Le Golf National, site of the 42nd Ryder Cup on September 28-30 in France. Call it temporary amnesia, for the lack of a more clinical diagnosis.
When discussing the Hubert Chesneau/Robert von Hagge design in general terms, the early reviews are typically complimentary. The consensus among players is that you don’t have to be long off the tee to score. And though the need for solid shotmaking to manoeuvre around the numerous lakes, humps and bumps is real, in several spots the course affords the chance to make amends for mistakes.
“It’s a great test of golf,” Justin Thomas said when he got his first glimpse in July while playing the French Open. “It’s not like there are any hidden tricks or anything like that.”
However . . .
Grab the pros after they’ve walked off the course, and they mention what they seem to have forgotten: The place plays harder than it looks, particularly the four claustrophobic closing holes locals refer to as The Loop of Doom.
“It’s a golf course that can really beat you up if you’re not on your guard,” says Thomas Levet, one of three Frenchmen, with Jean Van de Velde and Victor Dubuisson, to have competed in the Ryder Cup. “You don’t necessarily think about it like that. It’s a bit crafty that way, almost diabolical.”
Consider the devilish end to July’s French Open. A par 4 on the 18th would have given Julian Suri the win, but the American’s approach found the water guarding the green and led to a double bogey. England’s Chris Wood also dropped shots on the 15th and 17th, and Jon Rahm didn’t even last that long, making a triple-bogey 7 on the 12th hole. Alex Noren finished more than a half-hour ahead of the final pairing and played the last four holes in two under to win.
Still, if the Albatros Ailment holds, all will be forgotten come September, the adrenalin of the biennial competition fuelling both teams. For the Americans, the goal is to win away from the United States, something that hasn’t happened since 1993. The Europeans are trying to keep from losing two straight matches for the first time in that 25-year span.
This is just the second time the Ryder Cup will be played in continental Europe, the other coming in 1997 at Valderrama in Spain. Le Golf National offers numerous risk-reward opportunities, presenting options that should make it an intriguing match-play venue. Combined with the location – 30 kilometres southwest of central Paris and eight kilometres from historic Versailles – and the not-so-small fact that several players occupying both rosters seem to have their games in peak form, there’s the potential for a dramatic three days outside the City of Lights.
To get you fully prepared, here are nine things to know about the Ryder Cup venue.
1 IT’S NOT A NEW COURSE
The Albatros opened on October 5, 1990; the inaugural fourball featured major champions Greg Norman, JeffSluman and Raymond Floyd joining French professional Marc Farry. It was the culmination of a nearly decade-long endeavour by Claude-Roger Cartier, the president of the French Golf Federation and a quiet, behind-the-scenes presence in the rise of the European Tour.
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