SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, FRANCE | Let’s take a moment here, before the first official Olé, Olé, Olé is sung, before the first Ryder Cup point is won and while the croissants are still fresh to appreciate where we are.
It’s Paris (which the dinner receipts in my expense account will heartily verify).
It’s Ryder Cup eve.
It’s golf’s version of Christmas Eve and with gaudy sweaters, too.
This only happens once every two years because it takes that long to get over the last one and the buildup is a substantial part of the fun. It’s true of so many things in sports – the anticipation is as much a part of the event as the competition itself.
The Ryder Cup is the most compelling event in golf. The Masters is the most beautiful, downright romantic in a pimento cheese and peach cobbler kind of way, and everybody considers their member-guest as one of the game’s majors.
This is different.
The Ryder Cup is loud and borderline rowdy. Players scream. Lousy shots are cheered. (Like most member-guests, actually).
Team chemistry is a thing.
Professional golfers too often talk about “We did this” or “We’re doing that” when, in fact, they themselves did it. No one has yet seen a caddie or a physio guy hit a shot in competition.
This week, though, the team thing is at the core of the competition. The most exclusive entrée in the game is at the door of the respective team rooms. Listen to players talk about their Ryder Cup experiences and they invariably reminisce about the feeling of being together away from the course. It can sound almost like a high school reunion.
Michael Jordan is part of the U.S. team because, well, because he’s Michael Jordan.
The Ryder Cup tugs at different threads. It touches different nerves. It fuels different feelings.
Make a bogey on Friday at the PGA Championship and it’s no big deal. Make a bogey Friday at Le Golf National and it will feel as if the earth moved.
Remember when the stoic David Duval put his hand to his ear, cocked his head toward the crowd at The Country Club in Brookline 19 years ago and shook both fists like Zeus in a bad mood?
The Ryder Cup does that.
It’s possible this one falls flat but it’s hard to imagine one team blowing out the other the way the Europeans did a little more than a decade ago, winning consecutive Ryder Cups by nine points.
According to people who are good with numbers, this Ryder Cup has the highest-ranked collection of players in history. In other words, there are no schlubs here.
The weather is perfect, chilly in the morning and warm in the afternoon with no threat of rain and only a small chance of the champagne being flat.
Le Golf National is gorgeous, green and lush and mounded around the edges so the enormous galleries will actually be able to see some of the golf, which isn’t always true at Ryder Cups, where spectators outnumber actual matches approximately 10,000 to one.
There’s still time for conjecture:
- Will Sergio be the surprise star this week?
- Is this when we see the end of the Patrick Reed-Jordan Spieth pairing?
- Why was Bubba wearing a blue glove in his press conference Wednesday?
- How many matches will Tiger play?
- Can the Americans end a 25-year losing streak on foreign soil?
- What’s Bryson DeChambeau talking about?
It’s almost here, finally.