The 41st Ryder Cup is being played at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, MN this week. The American team is hoping that the home court advantage will give them and edge and the ability to bring the Ryder Cup back the United States for the first time since 2008. Is Hazeltine the kind of course that can favor Team USA? Let’s take a look.
This Robert Trent Jones design is made for shot makers. The natural use of the landscape puts a premium on shot value. Hazeltine will penalize players for wayward shots. There are plenty of trees shaping the fairways and the bunkers closely guard the putting surfaces. It is a very fine test of golf and perfect for the Ryder Cup.
What is interesting and new to the players will be that the course has been re-routed specifically for the Ryder Cup. The front nine will be made up of holes 1-4 and 14-18 with the back consisting of 10-13 and 5-9. This change has been made for a few reasons. The first is for spectator viewing. The 5th through 9th holes (now 14-18) have room on both sides of the fairways and greens to allow more fans to watch what should be closing holes of all the matches. They are also closer to the entrance/exit. The second is for the matches themselves. The holes are better for match play.
Holes No.5 through No.9 on the original layout are very good match play holes. Not only are they good golf holes, but they will add risk-reward scenarios that add high drama to the Ryder Cup finish. They also are closer together so their is less gap between matches and will add to the atmosphere.
The now 16th hole (No.7) is a dog-leg right par 5 that can be reached in 2 shots. They better be good shots because the green is closely guarded by water left and bunkers right. An eagle hear could swing or close more than one match this week.
Hazeltine now provides the drama of a 17th hole par 3. This relatively short hole should provide plenty of drama down the stretch. The putting surface is tricky with levels and will provide some interesting pin placements to test the putting nerves very late in the round.
If the matches reach the 18th hole (No.9) nerves will be tested immediately off the tee. Fairway bunkers pinch the landing area making it 1 of the toughest tee shots on the entire course. The 2nd shot is up the hill to a green that can barely be seen from the fairway. Long and left is almost dead so accuracy in the toughest moment is paramount and could decide points.
Hazeltine National is set up about as good as it gets for the playing of the 41st Ryder Cup. Play starts on Friday morning at 7:30 local time with Foursomes (alternate shot) with the Fourball (best ball) played in the afternoon.
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