Inside The Ropes At The Ryder Cup

It’s countdown to the Ryder Cup and I can’t believe it was two years since I was at Valhalla.

Some of my best memories were hanging around in the team rooms at the opulent Brown’s Hotel in the heart of Louisville.

Having been given VIP tickets by my good friend Nick Faldo I made sure I cherished every moment. It really was a fly on the wall experience and I thought it would be fun to share some of my times during Ryder Cup week.

One thing that really struck in my mind is how full on the whole event is for the players and the incredible attention to detail. At one stage I went down to where the players and wives get fitted in the hotel and there were four people frantically stitching away making last minute alterations. This is unlike any other event, and I’m not sure what Samuel Ryder would make of it now. Things have certainly changed since Walter Hagen’s team beat Ted Ray’s 9½ – GB 2½ at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts back in 1927.

It really is a frenzy of activity and you would be forgiven for thinking the players finish playing, make a few interviews and go back to the hotel to relax from early on in the evening. The truth is that it can be approaching 10pm and later before their commitments at the golf course are over. The whole week is one long media circus, more so than ever before.

The US players were on the floor above the Europeans and whilst I never went up to that floor, I did find myself in the lift with some of them, though in a way it was more fun to be with the likes of Lee Trevino and Ben Crenshaw (some of my heros from childhood) My wife Elle was more interested in speaking to Boo Weekley, and I guess we had a great way to start up a conversation because we had been speaking to his dad earlier in the day. Nice guy.

This week it will be different to a degree with the players staying on the course at Celtic Manor – there won’t be the 40 minute to an hour journey back to the hotel in Louisville. Having said that the logistics of moving in and out of the hotel will have to be staged like a military operation considering everyone including hotel and golf course staff are getting bussed in from nearby towns.

Over the weekend I spoke to someone who had volunteered to marshall on the first hole, but now having been accepted has declined because of the extra time in the day he will need and hadn’t bargained for. I don’t blame him considering he has significant commitments either side of the day he was going to marshall. In the UK it’s probably best to sit back and watch it on Sky, that’s what I will be doing!

Where will you be watching the Ryder Cup?

Back in 2008 I got the chance to ride one of the team buggies inside the ropes, I don’t suppose I will ever get a better view than that. I always remember a friend texting me the week after the Ryder Cup saying they aren’t sure, but did they really see me driving down the first hole during the Sunday singles – yep that was me. Totally surreal as you can imagine. I have a photo somewhere and will have to show you one day.

One of my fondest memories was sitting with friends on the bank behind the 14th with a view of the 15th and 16th late on the Saturday. The difference in points was yo yoing, would it be a difference of 1, 2, or 3 points at the close of play. Would the Europeans claw back to within touching distance. Those few hours really captured the excitement we come to expect and enjoy at the Ryder Cup.

As I say a lot goes into planning a Ryder Cup and behind the scenes the pressure is on to make sure everything comes together. My mate Matt Sturt has designed the course plan artwork and another great friend Ross McMurray has actually designed the golf course. I used to work with both of them back in my golf course architect days. They still have great banter in the office and I really miss that.

I last saw Ross at the Open, though to be honest I nearly missed him in the crowds as he looked more like a drowned rat on the Wednesday afternoon. The weather cleared up, but it was too late and the past champions 4 hole competition over holes 1, 2, 17 and 18 never took place. This was the event that Seve planned to play in but pulled out about a week before.

This week I would be surprised if too many players are working on swing changes or even making tweaks. Instead I imagine they are just trying to find their groove. How anyone can play under that kind of pressure I have no idea, except to say when they stand on that first tee it will be the ultimate test of their mental game.

Do you remember how well Louis Oosthuizen fared in the last round of the Open Championship at St Andrews? His mental toughness came down to his work with my friend Karl Morris about a month before the event.

Do you remember how well Louis Oosthuizen fared in the last round of the Karl is great and the first time I met him at the St Andrews Fairmont Hotel I learnt so much. We recorded everything on video and then when I got home I had one of those sinking feelings in the pit of my stomach when I realised all of our footage was too dark. To his absolute credit Karl made time to run through everything again the next day, even though he was on holiday there. Karl was a true gent

I dreaded calling him to say look we didn’t realise the indoor lighting was too dim and would he mind recording again. Lesson learnt there – always thoroughly research your location before filming. It has since turned into a life lesson, simply never underestimate the power of preparation.

Here’s to a great event

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