I know I tend to sound ambivalent about the Ryder Cup. On one hand, I think the matches have been made too important for the wrong reasons. Fundamentally, I believe the Ryder Cup is an exhibition by some of the best golfers in the world, great entertainment and an exercise in sportsmanship, camaraderie and goodwill.
The individual performances, good or bad, don't determine who the best players in the world are. Nor does the side that happens to win determine on what side of the Atlantic the best golf is played.
Too many people believe otherwise, and that helps to make the matches too contentious among the teams and their fans.
On the other hand, I always want the Americans to win. I wanted to win the six times I was a player and the two times I was a captain. And I want the U.S. team to win again at the matches this September in Louisville.
I mean, I'm an American. And I'm tired of hearing about the European dominance in the Ryder Cup. I'm sure for many years the Europeans got tired of hearing about American dominance, and they're reveling about turning it around. But I just think American golf is better than perceptions based on recent Ryder Cup results.
I also want the U.S. to win for all the players I've had on the Presidents Cup teams I've captained. They're great young men and terrific players who work hard, and I know a victory would be a positive for their confidence and their individual futures. The way things are today, with so much scrutiny and criticism of every player's performance in the Ryder Cup, it's far better to be part of a victorious team than a losing team.
I'm particularly looking forward to this Ryder Cup because I'm very proud of the changes we've made to the host course, Valhalla. When the course opened 22 years ago, as the designer I knew there were things I would want to change as time went on. Since then, my ideas about golf-course design have evolved, and advances in technology have radically changed the way the game is played at the highest level.
When Valhalla was the site of the 2000 PGA Championship, it was a par 72 of 7,167 yards. With our renovation for the Ryder Cup, it will play as a par 71 of 7,496 yards (the second hole has been converted from a par 5 to a 505-yard par 4). Besides adding length, we've added some bunkers and rebuilt a number of greens to create more variety in hole locations and improve the course strategically. I'd say that over 18 holes, the course is now about a shot and a half tougher. We've increased difficulty, but more important, we've created a more complete golf course as far as challenging all parts of the game.
One of Valhalla's strengths is that its two nines occupy very different land. The front nine is built on the flood plain of Floyds Fork, with the playing areas occupying the high ground. It makes for a kind of target golf in an almost British setting. The back nine weaves through a more wooded area in which most of the shots are framed by large trees.
Several holes have been altered dramatically, most notably the sixth, now a par 4 of 500 yards. The green has been moved back, and even after a well-positioned tee shot, the approach will be at least 180 yards. No one will be hitting a wedge to this hole they call The Bear.
The seventh hole, Player's Pick, is a risk-reward par 5 of 601 yards with a dual fairway split by a quarry. To reach in two shots, a player will have to choose the left fairway, which is only 26 yards wide in the landing area. We've extended the bordering quarry so that it runs all the way to the edge of the green, so anyone reaching the green in two will have to carry the approach onto the putting surface.