Temporary grandstands are set up around the 18th hole at Whistling Straits Golf Course in preparation for the Ryder Cup
Temporary grandstands are set up around the 18th hole at Whistling Straits Golf Course in preparation for the Ryder Cup Image Credit: AP

Following many calls and Zoom meetings with Ryder Cup officials it has been agreed that I can travel to the US to coach all my players: Brooks Koepka from the US camp, and Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter as well as assisting my Coach buddy Mike Walker with Matt Fitzpatrick, all from Europe.

COVID-19 protocol meant the entire European Ryder Cup party of around 200 on the charter were required to take all the PCR tests and wait anxiously for four hours for the test results.

It seems we all came through safely, even the 70-year-old coach, and we leave now from Heathrow Airport for the US.

Not all the players nor all the caddies are on the flight, as many are already based in the US and we will all catch up together when we arrive in Wisconsin.

I spoke to Team Europe captain Padraig Harrington last night, and he was not saying much about the golf course set-up.

A note to all be aware of is, that the home captain — Steve Stricker in this case — has the right to set up the Ryder Cup course as he sees fit to make it more ‘advantageous’ for his team of 12.

The Straits Course at Whistling Straits, designed by Pete and Alice Dye, opened in 1998, has played host to three US PGA Championships in 2004, 2010 and 2015.

It is a par-72 layout that can stretch to a very long 7,790 yards from the tips.

Harrington has played in all three majors hosted at Whistling Straits, as has Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia as well as vice-captains Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald, and we all remember Martin Kaymer’s famous victory in the 2010 edition with the Dustin Johnson ‘bunker’ incident on the 72nd hole.

From the US side, vice-captains Phil Mickelson, David Love III and Zach Johnson have played all three.

However, as everyone knows, a golf course set up can change with fairway lines, depth of rough, fairway cuts and softness or hardness, run-offs, speed of greens and so much more.

The course has vast rolling greens, deep pot bunkers, grassy dunes and frequent winds that sweep in off the lake. It is a coastal links-style course and there are very few large trees and you would call it exposed to the elements.

Stricker and most of his Team US got together for a weekend camp the week after the team was announced, which must give them a head start in their preparations.

Harrington is not sharing too much on these topics, probably not to overload the players, at this stage, with too much information.

Remember that team golf is very rare in a player’s season of events, and their typical build up is all their own work for perhaps one or two trips around the golf course, gym work and whatever the player is comfortable with.

Harrington is already proving to be an excellent captain and he is obviously keeping the mood light-hearted and relaxed around the entire group.

It is always a long and exhausting week for players, coaches and us all, with media responsibilities as well as photo-shoots, functions to attend and support.

We are all in for a great week, there is nothing like it in golf and, in my opinion, sport.

Unfairly, if Europe wins, Harrington will be a hero, if Europe loses, there may be opinions on how and why.

My only consolation is, unless there is a tie, I can always take credit for being part of a winning Ryder Cup Team! But I am rooting for Europe, of course.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with the opening ceremony makes it a long build up to the Friday morning matches.

I cannot wait for the 2020 Ryder Cup to begin. Just 12 months late.