GLENEAGLES, United Kingdom: European and US Ryder Cup players got acquainted with the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles on Tuesday with both sides saying they were surprised how thick the rough was.
At 7,243 yards, the Jack Nicklaus-designed layout is long, but seen as relatively generous off the tee, favouring the long-hitters on both sides.
Paul McGinley, as European captain, had the advantage of choosing how the course should be prepared and, whilst favouring European-style setups, he said he also tried to be even-handed.
“I’ve aligned it very much with the European Tour setup that we play on the European Tour,” he said.
“In general we have narrower fairways in Europe than you do on the (US) PGA Tour. In general, we have a little bit more rough on the European Tour than you do on the PGA Tour.
“And in general, your greens are quicker and faster than we have on the European Tour. So our European Tour setup is very similar to what we have here.
“I think to be honest, the rough is a little thicker than ideal, but it is what it is. That wasn’t a calculated decision.
“But it’s still extremely good and it’s not something we are disappointed with. It’s very much in line with the European Tour setup. I haven’t gone out of my way to trick things up.”
US veteran Jim Furyk, who will play in his ninth straight Ryder Cup, agreed with McGinley that the thick rough could be a factor.
“I kind of like the golf course to be honest with you. I feel like it’s relatively straightforward. It’s in front of you,” he said.
“I’m a little surprised by the setup though. I didn’t expect to see eight-inch rough in spots out there, and it is overly thick and overly long in spots.
“You’re not going to see a lot of recovery shots here when guys get in that hay. It’s going to be very fortunate if you can get the ball on the green from 160, 170 or 180 yards. You’re going to have to get an extremely fortunate lie.”
Both captains, meanwhile, gave strong indications of who might play with whom in Friday’s opening fourballs and foursomes in how they sent out their men for the first official practice.
The signs were there that Northern Irish pair Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell may not play together as they went out in different groupings.
McDowell then said that the dynamic that had linked the two in previous Ryder Cups and Seve Trophies may have gone forever due to McIlroy’s elevation to superstar status.
He also expressed a clear desire to be handed the job of minder to Ryder Cup rookie Victor Dubuisson.
At 24, the Frenchman is the youngest player in the European team and has a reputation for being a bit of a loner and hard to handle.
McDowell said he had taken pains to get to know Dubuisson over the last few months and that they had hit it off.
“I would very much embrace the task of blooding a guy like Victor, and I would love to play with him. We are talking about potentially that happening, and like I say, I’m one of a few guys that could potentially do that,” he said.
Elsewhere, the established English pairing of Ian Poulter and Justin Rose look good to go again and McIlroy and Sergio Garcia played together, offering the prospect of an explosive partnership on Friday.
On the American side, with players practicing in groups of four rather that the three preferred by Europe, the picture also became clearer.
Phil Mickelson, the spearhead of the US team in the absence of Tiger Woods, looks like continuing his partnership with Keegan Bradley, the two having won three out of three games two years ago at Medinah.
Other likely pairings are Bubba Watson with Webb Simpson, Jimmy Walker with Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk with Patrick Reed.
“We’ll see if there’s any changes, but right now, the pairings that you probably were able to tell, if you saw anything today, are the pairings that look like we may start out with,” said Spieth, at 21 the youngest player at Gleneagles.
McGinley, meanwhile, confirmed that legendary Manchester United Coach Alex Ferguson will give a motivational speech to his players at their team dinner Tuesday evening.
Watson said he had some speakers lined up too but would not say who they were.