CHASKA, Minn. -- Being the home team has its advantages in the Ryder Cup. Like how the course is set up, for example.
In 1997, Seve Ballesteros famously had a patch of deep rough added to the middle of the fairway of one par 5 at Valderrama to negate the power of a young Tiger Woods and force him to lay up short of it like everyone else. The strategy worked.
Davis Love III didn’t go to such extremes this year at Hazeltine National. Instead, he went the other direction, reducing the rough -- the same way he did two years ago at Medinah -- and setting up pins that could be attacked.
On Sunday, there were 124 birdies and five eagles made in the 202 total holes played over 12 singles matches. It was the product of the best players in the world performing on a course that was in pristine condition, particularly on the greens, but also pin locations that in Justin Rose’s eyes were not testing enough.
“Setup-wise, this course can be as tough as you want it to be, there's no doubt about it,” he said. “I think today, I think if we were all to be honest about it, I thought the setup was incredibly weak. I thought it was very much a pro-am feel in terms of the pin placements. They were all middle of the green.
“I mean, the pin on 17 is an absolute, you know, a joke. It's a 9-iron into the middle of the green and you stiff it. So with a match on the line, you kind of feel like you want to have something -- you want a player to step up a little bit more than they have to. Even 18, if you hit a good drive down there, you've got a wedge into the green, and if you hit a wedge to the middle of the green, you're within 12-foot of the pin. So I just felt coming down the stretch, it was a little soft.”
Rose’s complaint wasn’t exactly sour grapes after a 1-up loss to Rickie Fowler, or the Americans’ 17-11 blowout of Europe, but clearly he would have preferred a more difficult setup.
He wasn’t the only one.
“If anything, with the positions the Americans found themselves in, it was more beneficial to them,” said Rory McIlroy, citing his opening day alternate-shot match against Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler in which the two Americans sprayed it all over the property off the tee but were able to hang around long enough to steal a 1-up victory in a U.S. sweep of the session. “Bad tee shots weren’t getting punished as much as maybe they should have been.
“But that’s all home advantage. You can do that; that’s what Ryder Cups are all about. Any little advantage you can get when you’re the home team, you have to try to take in that position.”