This week’s Ryder Cup will feature an unprecedented atmosphere around the first tee at Le Golf National thanks to a grandstand which houses close to 7,000 fans, and Paul McGinley is looking forward to the spectacle…
The first tee experience at a Ryder Cup has been transformed over the years. We only had 3,000 fans around the tee at Gleneagles four years ago, so to have over double that here will build incredible excitement all week.
The height of it will be reached when the first singles match goes off on Sunday at 11am, and fans will start filling the stands four or five hours before that.
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They will be making plenty of noise, and that will be easily heard in the team rooms not too far away. We could hear the fans when we were having breakfast in the hotel at Gleneagles, and it was extremely uplifting for the players and the whole squad.
The build-up of the tension, the build-up of the atmosphere, and the anticipation, it all intensifies by the minute and reaches a crescendo when the players arrive on the tee.
Of course, a lot of the players will be nervous, and there will be a couple just hoping to get the ball in the air and roughly in the right direction. But they will also be inspired by the prospect of hearing a huge roar when they rip down the middle of the fairway.
It will be an incredible spectacle when every one of the 28 matches begins, and it’s an opportunity for the golfers to feel like professional footballers in terms of the noise they’re going to generate.
Yes, of course it can be nerve-wracking for even the most experienced players, but in my time as a Ryder Cup player, I found it is also incredibly empowering and really exciting.
These guys are showmen, they are sportsmen, they are entertainers. They are professional athletes who are used to performing in front of big crowds, and the organisers at Le Golf National have built them a remarkable platform on which to perform.
They have built a theatre, and every one of the 24 players on show this week will love it. I’ve never seen a sight quite like this around a first tee, and it represents another example of how the Ryder Cup continues to get bigger and bigger.
The European players will feel a little extra tension and pressure to get a good drive away, while the Americans could be intimidated by the noise and the atmosphere, but I’d rather be on the home team in this situation.
You just can’t wait to get on that first tee and hammer it down the fairway when it goes quiet. And if you get even a half-decent shot away, the crowd are going to go wild. It’s easier said than done, but the players must stand over that shot and retain a positive mindset.
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That’s a tough proposition for the rookies in each team, but my advice to them would be to embrace it, rather than fear it. They should not be intimidated, they need to view it as an opportunity – with 7,000 in the stands and maybe another 10,000 lining the fairway – to get 17,000 yelling at the top of their lungs when you flush it down the middle!