You may not know much about the build-up to next week’s Ryder Cup at Marco Simone. But be aware: it will be hilly.
“It’s a brutal walk,” U.S. captain Zach Johnson said last week after his team’s scouting trip.
“It’s so hilly and the temperature could be quite hot that the boys will probably be happy to get some rest,” added deputy captain Stewart Cink. “There won’t be much disappointment if you don’t play.”
In an NBC call to preview the Cup on Thursday, Paul Azinger called it “a little acid test.”
“If someone plays all five games, I think it’s going to be tough for them,” added colleague Curt Byrum.
You have the idea. Marco Simone is a straight up Hike.
But these guys are used to walking. They are used for heating. And they are used to hills. No big deal, right?
According to the captains, this is actually a big deal. The compact nature of the event – two sessions on Friday, two sessions on Saturday, singles on Sunday – meant top players were able to complete five full rounds in just three days. Temperatures in Rome are expected to rise to over 80°C next week. And that’s the Ryder Cup, where the prep-to-play ratio is higher than any other event in professional golf. After all, many of these guys rarely have coaches at golf tournaments – now they have a captain and a bevy of assistants to take care of the little things.
So unique preparations are underway.
Fred Couples announced on his SiriusXM radio show Thursday that Johnson has added a lighter, slimmer golf bag to the lineup in a nod to Marco Simone’s demands.
“Zach has little bags for the caddies,” he said. “This course can be so hilly and hard.”
As for Europe captain Luke Donald? He also made plans.
“There is a possibility that some people who are used to playing five-a-side won’t play five-a-side,” he said at the BMW PGA Championship. “They want some freshness, it’s going to be a tough golf course, it could be quite warm. We have to make these decisions based on the game on Friday and Saturday. They all want to be out there and play as much as they can, but they understand the reasoning behind it.”
That all makes sense. But he also hinted at another concept I haven’t seen in my Ryder Cup memories: pooled caddies. Some players may make the trek, but their Bagmen may need a place to stay.
“For the caddies, we have enough people who can step in if someone can’t make it 36 holes,” Donald said Express. “It’s all been thought through.”
The course measures just over 150 feet from lowest to highest point. The 18th hole alone drops more than 100 feet from tee to green, suggesting you did some climbing to get there. That’s a number that pales in comparison to Kapalua, the hardest walk on the PGA Tour, where the number is closer to 500. But almost half of the holes feature blind approach shots, meaning uphill golf to elevated greens. Add in long rough, the added stressors of match play and the X-factor of jet lag, and you’re talking about a test for players’ legs.
Wyndham Clark reported that U.S. players apparently took carts with them during the scouting trip Sports Illustrated was “like college golf on steroids.” The European team was also there in the run-up to the BMW PGA Championship. “It was incredible,” said Rory McIlroy. “I’m kind of surprised that it’s the first time we’ve actually done this.”
That doesn’t mean everyone was crazy about the golf course.
“It’s very blind. And for a stroke play event, I wasn’t a big fan,” Viktor Hovland said. “This time when I played it, I still don’t think it’s a great stroke play or golf course, but as far as match play goes, I think it’s going to be very exciting because there’s a good mix of holes. “ are easy, you can make birdies and eagles, but there are also some extremely difficult holes where if you make par you could win the hole.”
Win the hole – and move on to the next one.
https://golf.com/news/backup-caddies-lighter-bags-ryder-cup-strategies/ Replacement caddies? Lighter bags? Unusual tactics at the “brutal” Ryder Cup venue