US captain Davis Love III has struggled for years to come up with a way of getting a real “home field advantage” over Europe at this week’s Ryder Cup and he hopes a freewheeling, birdie-laden shootout is his team’s best shot at the trophy.
The battleground for the biennial golfing showdown will be the stately Medinah Country Club on the outskirts of Chicago and that choice alone suggests the US will have an edge.
Tiger Woods has won twice at Medinah, lifting the PGA Championship in 1999 and 2006, while many of his Ryder Cup teammates grew up learning the game on similar tree-lined layouts, but US-style courses and their slick greens are no longer a mystery to European visitors, who have been bagging more PGA Tour wins over the years.
Spaniard Sergio Garcia has twice finished runner-up at Medinah, while Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy does not need a windswept links course to find success, the world No. 1 winning four titles on US soil this year, including his second major at the PGA Championship.
However, Love believes he can get an advantage from Medinah by playing to US strengths.
“I struggled for two years to kind of come up with a way, how do you get an advantage,” Love told reporters shortly after he arrived at Medinah on Monday with his European counterpart, Jose Maria Olazabal.
“We’re a long-hitting, freewheeling, fun-to-watch team,” he said. “We have 24 of the best players in the world. They are all pretty good at adapting to conditions. One thing I’ve never liked is rough and I’ve been lucky enough to have a little bit of an influence on two golf tournaments, our McGladrey Classic and this Ryder Cup, and neither one of them had a lot of rough. I just don’t like rough.”
Love said the Medinah setup would also play to a pro-US crowd, giving the galleries plenty to get excited about once competition begins on Friday with the opening foursomes.
“I think the fans want to see a little excitement. They want to see birdies,” Love said.
“Even holes tied at birdies are more fun than six-footers tying for par,” he said. “We want to let these unbelievable athletes freewheel it a little bit and play. Medinah is such a big, long golf course and with the weather turning bad on us, I don’t think we wanted a lot of rough. It’s still going to be tough. It’s a tough golf course, but without the deep rough, saves us the chip outs and the grinding it out style of golf.”
Medinah No. 3 Course is a challenging tree-lined layout designed by Tom Bendelow and opened for play in 1928.
Changed beyond all recognition after several revamps, it became the longest course to stage a major when the PGA Championship was played there for a second time in 2006.
A 7,401-yard layout when Woods won the 1999 PGA Championship, it was stretched to 7,561 yards for the 2006 edition, also won by Woods.
In a restoration project which began in 2002, course architect Rees Jones removed 300 trees, added new tees or enlarged existing ones, rebuilt some of the greens and redesigned several greenside bunkers.
“The greens, I had four guys out there today and they reported back that the greens are just absolutely perfect,” Love said. “There’s not a lot of rough, which the members like, and hopefully everybody else likes it.”
“The fairways have made an incredible transformation in the last six weeks,” he said. “It’s amazing, I’ve been here two weeks ago, a week ago, and was out on the golf course playing yesterday, and literally every day, every day it just gets better and better. It’s amazing, and on TV it’s just going to be so gorgeous.”