The 42nd Ryder Cup
Four holes to watch at Le Golf National - L'Albatros course
by M. James Ward
The waiting is nearly over – the 42nd Ryder Cup Matches are just about to commence. The venue is one familiar to members of the European team but one not really seen until this week for the bulk of the American squad. The par 72 7,331-yard layout is a mixture of different hole types and styles. The course has hosted 26 French Opens and there is little question that solid play will be needed for the players to perform at their very best.
Four holes in particular are well worth watching:
1st hole / 419 Yards / Par-4
The opening hole provides the platform for jittery golfers to commence their rounds. A massive bleacher/stand has been erected with no fewer than 92 steps which will allow 6,900 people to provide the appropriate send-off for players from both teams – Hazeltine National had seating for roughly 2,000. The hole doglegs around a pond and getting into the proper position is a must. Likely fairway metals or long irons will be the choice of clubs. The green hugs the same pond and with any pin placement cut tight to the water's edge will certainly add pressure to keep one's golf ball dry. Getting off to a good start is certainly doable here but it's not an automatic sure thing.
7th hole / 457 Yards / Par-4
Like a number of holes at the L'Albatros course the key is solid driving. The 7th does this very well. Players need to find the elevated fairway and avoid misses to either the left or right sides. Once in the rough the probability in reaching the green becomes highly doubtful. The green is a big target but selecting the appropriate club will be central for birdie chances.
11th hole / 178 Yards / Par-3
The hole provides a birdie possibility but bogey and worse can just as easily happen for the hapless play. Water hugs the front portion but those flying too long will face a daunting challenge to escape with par with a duo of bunkers lurking. The green is also sloped so those with shaky hands will be tested. As matches head down the home stretch the 11th will play a key role in either sustaining momentum or crushing it.
18th hole / 471 Yards / Par-4
If matches reach the final hole the stakes will no doubt be high and the pressure suffocating. The tee shot must be played with utter precision avoiding water to the left. Heading right means either deep rough or a series of bunkers likely mandating a punch shot well short of the green. The approach is equally treacherous. Water fiercely protects the front and approach shots hit too long will need a magician's touch to escape with par.
Photos courtesy of Ryder Cup Europe