PARIS (Reuters) – Thomas Bjorn’s superb European team won it, but this was a triumph for golf and more especially the Ryder Cup.
Peace returned to Le Golf National, just west of Paris, yesterday after three unforgettable days of raw sporting theatre played out on the most spectacular of stages to huge galleries.
A quarter of a million fans from across Europe and the Atlantic descended on the course close to historic Versaille during the week – with the competition days sparking a frenzy of noise and colour more in keeping with a football match.
Some had questioned the wisdom of taking the 42nd edition of the biennial team event to France for the first time, away from the sport’s European heartland of Britain and Ireland.
Any lingering doubts evaporated during a sun-drenched weekend on a stunning course that raised the bar considerably when it comes to staging future Ryder Cups. The narrow and beautifully manicured fairways, lush rough and gleaming expanses of water were easy on the eye but the course, while pretty, packed a punch as the Americans discovered to their cost in a 17.5-10.5 defeat.
What set Le Golf National apart, however, was the unrivalled viewing experience for the fans – most spectacularly the 7,000-capacity grandstand looming over the first tee.
Every day, a wall of noise welcomed players to the tee with the yellow-and-blue clad “Guardians of the Ryder Cup” group orchestrating the chanting and the “thunder-clap” popularised by Icelandic soccer fans during the 2016 European championship.
“That first tee shot was not like anything I’ve been involved in before, it was like an NFL game back in the States,” American rookie Tony Finau said.
“And I have to hit a tee shot – I have to make a golf swing with all that type of adrenaline. It was incredible. Just to be in that atmosphere, it’s electric.”
The beauty was you did not need a grandstand ticket though.
Le Golf National, designed by Hubert Chesneau and constructed 30 years ago on a former landfill site, was created as a ‘stadium course’ with each hole flanked by steep banks and raised walkways offering sweeping views of the action.
At various points, thousands of fans massed on ridges where they were able to watch multiple tees and greens without moving, while 18 huge video screens meant spectators could watch every ball.
Le Golf National director general Paul Armitage promised beforehand it would be the best course to host the Ryder Cup.
Few would disagree.
“The amphitheatre here, the venue, the golf course, the fans, I really can’t imagine if you could ever have a better venue or better place to play or better crowd to play in front of,” beaten American captain Jim Furyk said on Sunday.”
Despite the lack of a single home player, French fans, who snapped up 45 percent of the tickets, joined the party and the hope is the success of the Ryder Cup will spark a wave of interest across a nation where soccer and cycling rule.
That remains to be seen, but what is certain is that Rome, the next European host of the Ryder Cup in 2022, will have a lot to live up to.