Furyk to invite Americans to see Ryder Cup course in France
By DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer
Le Golf National outside Paris, the host course of the Ryder Cup next year, has been part of the European Tour schedule since 1991 and last year was the 25th time it has held the French Open.
So along with the European crowd, that’s one big advantage for the home team next year.
U.S. captain Jim Furyk hopes his American team can find time to see the course ahead of the September matches, even if they don’t play the tournament. The French Open is three weeks before the British Open, held the same week as The National on the PGA Tour schedule.
“We seem to have a bunch of players that hang out together,” Furyk said Tuesday in France. “I would love to see them make a trip here before The Open Championship or after The Open Championship and see the golf course.”
He said he would extend the invitation to the top 15 or 20 players in the U.S. standings. Furyk understands each player sets his own schedule, which includes obligations and rest, and he said it’s not going to be a requirement.
For American players, especially those on the bubble, it might not be a bad idea. Asked if it would be a strong recommendation to see the course, Furyk replied, “I think it’s going to be an ask and an invite, and I would hope to see some of those players.”
This is the second time in the last six years the Americans go overseas for the Ryder Cup in possession of the trophy. They have not won on European soil since 1993, the year Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Xander Schauffele were born.
“We have 25 years of scars to overcome,” Furyk said. “That being said, I will have a lot of young talent on my team. I’m anxious to see how they handle that challenge. Europe has handled those away matches far better in the last 25 years than we have.”
Europe is 3-3 on the road since 1993. The Americans are 0-5.
THE NICKLAUS CONNECTION: One of the more popular photos when Fred Ridley was appointed chairman of Augusta National is Ridley and Jack Nicklaus playing together in the 1976 Masters, the traditional pairing of the defending Masters champion and the U.S. Amateur champion.
The connection runs deeper than that.
In some respects, Ridley and Nicklaus shared the same golf coach — Jack Grout.
Ridley learned the game from Jamie Jackson, the head pro at Lone Palm in Lakeland, Florida, and later worked with Mike Killian and his mentor, Irv Schloss. But it was his teammate at Florida his senior year, Brad Baldwin, that led him to Grout.
“He had taken lessons from Jack Grout,” Ridley said. “Brad and I were going to the North and South Amateur in 1974 and he said, almost flippantly, ‘I’m going to call Jack Grout and see if he’ll give us a lesson and tune us up for the North and South.'”
Ridley was stunned that his teammate could just ring up such a famous teacher, but they headed to La Gorce Country Club in Miami Beach, Florida.
“I took two days of lessons and thought, ‘Golly, I’ve never hit it this good,'” Ridley said. “I won two or three matches at the North and South, beat Jay Sigel, and then that summer I qualified for the U.S. Amateur.”
Ridley started law school and said his father allowed him to take the following summer off to play golf.
“That was going to be my last fling,” Ridley said. “I spent a lot of time with him (Grout) that summer, and then I won the U.S. Amateur at the end of the summer. Those other gentlemen were great, but Jack Grout really took my game to another level.”
REUNIONS: The Italian Open and the CIMB Classic featured reunions of sorts.
Sergio Garcia was paired in the third round in Italy with Austin Connelly. It was their first time playing together, but apparently not the first time they have met. Connelly’s mother posted a photo from the 1999 Byron Nelson Classic that showed Garcia with his arm around Connelly.
Garcia was 19 and playing in his first regular PGA Tour event. Connelly was 2. The tweet prompted the European Tour to get them to strike the same pose .
Circumstances were slightly different over in Malaysia, where Scott Hend of Australia teed off in the first round with Ian Poulter and Patrick Rodgers. That brought back strong memories for Rodgers.
Walking off the second tee, Rodgers said to Hend, “This is going to sound a bit weird, but when I was 10, you gave me a signed glove, and it was the first thing I ever got from a professional golfer.”
Rodgers told the PGA Tour he still has the glove at home.
Hend played two full years on the PGA Tour in 2004 and 2005 before returning to the Asian Tour, where he has won nine times. It was a reminder how much of an influence the smallest gestures can have.
“It’s maybe easy to forget when we are out here, since it’s our job, but you can make a real difference with the people that come to watch you play,” Hend said.
AWAY ON HOLIDAY: Professional golfers spend so much time on the road that it’s not unusual to miss birthdays or holidays, or in the case of Anirban Lahiri, the Hindu festival of lights known as Diwali.
Lahiri says he hasn’t been home in India for Diwali since he was 14.
“When we were playing junior golf, all the tournaments were scheduled around the school holidays, and Diwali is obviously a school holiday,” he said last week in Malaysia. “And then when you’re a pro, especially now, the Asian Tour schedule really picks up. So yeah, I’ve probably been on the road for the last 14, 15 Diwalis.”
Lahiri referred to it as a hazard of work, though the holiday still carries deep meaning wherever he is. Among the traditions are exchanging sweets and presents with close friends and family.
“It’s fun because it’s family times and it’s friends time. I miss that,” he said. “So in a way, it’s Diwali every time I go back for me because I get to do all those things that other people get to do at Diwali.”
DIVOTS: Of the 80 juniors who qualified for the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National next year, three are returning for the third time — Megha Ganne of Holmdel, New Jersey; Treed Huang of Katy, Texas; and Vanessa Borovilos of Toronto. Huang won his age group (7-9) in 2014. … Hideki Matsuyama went over the $20 million mark in career PGA Tour earnings with his tie for fifth last week in Malaysia. … With her runner-up finish last week, LPGA Tour rookie Sung Hyun Park became the first woman to top $2 million this year. … Padraig Harrington is playing in Spain for the first time in nine years at the Andalucía Valderrama Masters.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The average age of the PGA Tour player of the year over the last four seasons is 25.8.
FINAL WORD: “The perception sometimes of the team coming together … has a lot to do with the outcome. We always look a lot happier during a winning year. We always look a touch more sad during a losing year. It seems as though winning cures all.” — Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk.