Hazeltine National Golf Club in 2011 completed a $15 million project that included a course update and a new clubhouse with an improved dining area, 50,000 square feet of meeting space and a new golf shop.
They better have put plenty of bulletin boards in the new place, too, for this week’s Ryder Cup.
First, European veteran Lee Westwood questioned the U.S. team’s spirit and chemistry and suggested Tiger Woods’ presence as a vice captain could adversely affect the American team.
Then U.S. captain Davis Love III in a SiriusXM PGA Tour radio interview said, “We’re a great golf team, this is maybe the best golf team ever assembled, if we just go play our game.”
The Best Golf Team Ever Assembled part went around the world on the internet. On Tuesday, Love tried to put his comments in context, saying he was talking about the kind of cutthroat mind-set his team needs to have and was not making a declaration.
“The question wasn’t, ‘How do you rank this team in history?’ ” Love said. “It was, ‘What are going to tell your team to fire them up?’ So I would tell them the same thing: ‘You’re a great team.’ ”
Great team and best team ever assembled, there’s a difference, which the Europeans have duly noted.
“At the end of the day, you don’t win the Ryder Cup with your mouth, you know,” European star Sergio Garcia. “You win them out there on the golf course. So that’s what we’ll see, which team is the best.”
Teammate Rory McIlroy addressed the topic rather cheekily.
“I don’t think it’s hard for us to find motivation because anywhere you look, whether it’s a sea of red on the golf course or comments in the media by the U.S. team or by the captain, that gives us so much motivation already,” McIlroy said. “Whenever we are going up against one of the greatest teams ever assembled, that’s motivation enough.”
Four peas in a pod
Tuesday’s practice round gave a first glimpse at the groupings — or “pods” — that Love will use: Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth were in one foursome; J.B. Holmes, Brooks Koepka, Ryan Moore and Brandt Snedeker were in another; and Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jimmy Walker were in a third.
Each group is a combination of long hitters and precision players.
“These are guys who get along and have played a lot together,” said Love, who said he might switch players around for Wednesday’s practice round.
U.S. 12th man Ryan Moore unexpectedly is in Minnesota this week, his first time back since he won the U.S. Amateur Public Links at Rush Creek in Maple Grove in 2004.
“It’s nice to have good, positive memories of playing around here and winning a golf tournament around here,” said Moore, now 33. “I’m not too old yet. I still remember that. It’s getting there, though. I’m starting to forget some of those things.”
• Europe captain Darren Clarke was asked Tuesday if the U.S. team should add players from Canada and Mexico should the Europeans win a fourth consecutive Cup this week: “Let’s just see how this works out first,” he said, laughing.
• Love asked 23-time Olympic gold-medal winner Michael Phelps to address his team Monday night. Clarke had retired Irish rugby star Paul O’Connell talk to his team Monday. Phelps played in Tuesday afternoon’s celebrity match along with Bill Murray, Kurt Russell, Martina Navratilova, Huey Lewis and 11 others.
• The U.S. team won its fifth consecutive Junior Ryder Cup, beating Europe 15 ½ to 8 ½ Tuesday to end the two-day event at Interlachen Country Club in Edina. Floridian Eugene Hong’s 5-foot par putt beat Finland’s Matias Honkala 1-up and clinched the Cup.