KOHLER, Wisconsin (Reuters) – As chill winds whipped across Whistling Straits on Wednesday morning European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington smiled and described it as a beach day — in Ireland.
Irishman Shane Lowry had much the same view; “It feels very much like a summer’s day in Ireland,” offered the 2019 British Open winner with a television weatherman’s deadpan delivery.
A links style layout nestled up against Lake Michigan on a stark stretch of Wisconsin shoreline, Whistling Straits with its unpredictable winds and cool fall conditions would seem a hand- picked Ryder Cup venue for a European team that grew up playing in such weather on similar courses.
Listening to Harrington and Lowry, it sounds as if they might have made the decision themselves except that it is the Americans’ turn to stage the biennial competition and their choice.
“I’m pretty happy with the conditions here to be honest,” said Lowry, ahead of a morning practice round with winds gusting close to 30 mph (48 kph). “I’m pretty happy with the golf course and that cold wind.
“It feels very much like a summer’s day in Ireland when you’re out there.
“It’s quite difficult to play in these conditions because you need to get your head around hitting a 6-iron 150 yards as opposed to normally most guys hit their 6-iron over 200 yards.
“Sometimes it’s hard to practise around here. You just kind of need to know how to do it, and I feel like I know how to do it.”
While the Europeans enjoyed a little bit of home on Wednesday, conditions are expected to change for Friday’s opening sessions with the forecast predicting temperatures to rise and winds to fall.
Those more benign conditions are expected to continue through the weekend.
“This would be a beach day at home,” laughed Harrington. “We’re not looking for extreme windy conditions, difficult conditions, tricky conditions. We don’t mind a good solid test.
“But yeah, maybe there is a little bit of an advantage for us if it does go that way.”
While Harrington believes a bit of wind would play to the Europe’s advantage, the big edge goes to the U.S. and their captain Steve Stricker, who get to tweak the layout in their favour.
“Clearly the home captain gets a choice in how the golf course is set up, and he’s going to do everything he can in that set-up to get it to favour his players,” said Harrington. “You can set a golf course up to be tough or you can set a golf course up to be loads of birdies, as in any week on Tour.
“But the home captain gets to make that decision, and I think it has a big influence.
“Certainly it would be tough to beat the U.S. on their home style of golf course, and as we’ve done in Europe, we’ve shown it’s pretty darned hard to beat us if we’re picking one of our courses that’s naturally suited to our games.
“It really is about picking the right venue and also then styling that golf course to suit your players.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating, Editing by Ed Osmond)