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Part of the lore of the Ryder Cup is the notion of home course advantage, one that plays out in various other team sports. But Padraig Harrington hopes it’s an aspect that gets eliminated down the line in the biennial matches.
The European skipper was a vice captain at Hazeltine in 2016 when the Americans feasted on a wide-open setup with easy pins, and he was in the team room again in 2018 when the Europeans returned the favor by growing the rough and tightening the targets at Le Golf National. The home team is allowed input on course setup decisions, meaning that Whistling Straits will be under the watchful eye of U.S. captain Steve Stricker for the 2020 matches, but Tuesday, Harrington floated the notion of using a more neutral approach in future years.
“I think there’s a substantial difference, I would advocate even too much of a difference between home and away,” Harrington said. “Clearly in Europe we get to set the golf course up, and we set it up in every way we can to suit our players. And in the States, we’ve seen that as well where the golf courses are set up to be most advantageous for the home team. I think, it’s probably not going to happen in my lifetime, but 40-50 years down the road when the Ryder Cup is still going along it’d probably be best to have a neutral setup.”
Whistling Straits has played host to three prior PGA Championships, all won by international players, and Harrington believes the links style of the Wisconsin layout could neutralize some of the potential home advantage for the Americans. While Stricker wasn’t ready to tip his hand on setup at the press conference with both captains to commemorate the matches being a year away, he did take a couple subtle jabs at the (successful) tactics employed last year by European captain Thomas Bjorn.
“They know how we like to set up the golf courses, and we know how they like to set up the golf courses,” Stricker said. “It’s not going to be 8 on the Stimpmeter like it was in Paris. It’s not going to be as high of rough as it was in Paris. But there’s no real tricks, but it is a little bit more of a challenge here.”