MEDINAH has been set up easier for the Ryder Cup than it normally plays for its members, according to a Lothians man who now lives and works in Chicago.
David Inglis, from Roslin, won the British Boys Championship and also played in the Walker Cup when he was one of Scotland’s brightest young talents. The Glencorse player stayed on in America after a spell at the University of Tulsa and is now the assistant golf coach at Northwestern University, Luke Donald’s alma mater.
Inglis, 30, was at Medinah earlier in the week to watch the teams on their first practice day and, like many others, admitted he’d been surprised to see that the course has little or no rough.
“Walking round the course I’d say the set up is even easier than when the members play it, albeit from a different set of tees,” he told the Edinburgh Evening News.
“The fairways have recovered well from being in bad shape just a few weeks ago and the greens are really good.
“So expect a lot of birdies in the fourball matches. Foursomes-wise the course sets up very evenly for both players.
“Both will have almost the exact same number of drives, approaches and putts, so pairings will come down to who is playing well and who partners well together.
“I’m guessing a little but I think Luke will likely play with Sergio (Garcia) in this format.”
Inglis, who was recently reinstated as an amateur, is heading back to Medinah on Saturday with Pat Goss, the Northwestern head golf coach, and the members of the Wildcats’ team.
A freshman on that this year is Joshua Jamieson, last year’s Scottish Boys’ Stroke-Play champion from St Andrews.
“I think Europe will win – of course, I’d say that – and I will be doing my best to cheer them on,” added Inglis.
Europe have won six of the last eight matches, though America came out on top the last time the match was held on this side of the Atlantic – at Valhalla four years ago.
“It’s great that we are getting closer to the start of the matches,” admitted European captain Jose Maria Olazabal.
“The players are ready and we are all eager to see the first match on that first tee. The opening ceremony (today) is the last piece of the jigsaw before we battle it out.
“The more excitement you feel, the more pressure and tension there is. You can see that in the crowds today. They were already dropping a few “USAs” out there and stuff like that.
“I think Friday morning is going to be amazing. It’s going to be loud, but that’s the beauty of this event.”
According to his opposite number, Davis Love III, the Ryder Cup is now as big as the Olympics in the eyes of the American sporting public. “I’ve always said the Ryder Cup is like the America’s Cup yacht race,” he said. “I’d never heard much about it until we started losing. Everybody got really interested and now people watch it on TV, there’s a lot of sponsors and we talk about it.
“In the Ryder Cup, we were winning a whole bunch of them and it wasn’t a whole lot of fun and the PGA of American was having a tough time selling it.
“But, all of a sudden, along come Seve [Ballesteros) and Bernhard [Langer] and then it becomes really popular.
“TV made this something that America really cares about and is passionate about. We just went through an Olympics and this is becoming like the Olympics for America.
“They realise that our team is going up against an unbelievable team from Europe and they all want to see what happens.”
The quality of the players taking part over the next three days is probably the best its ever been in a Ryder Cup.
All 24 of them are in the world’s top 35 and, on paper, it is difficult to separate the teams. Many people, in fact, are tipping a tie. That would do for Europe, as it would mean they’ll hold on to the trophy.
With the next match taking part in at Gleneagles in two years’ time, there’s a strong Scottish presence in Chicago, led by First Minister Alex Salmond.
Flying the Saltire on the course is Paul Lawrie, who is making his first appearance in the biennial bout since 1999, when he hit the first shot as a rookie at Brookline.
Whether the Aberdonian is asked to take on that task again will be revealed at the opening ceremony later today, when the pairings for the opening session will also be announced.
Lawrie looks as though he’ll be involved, possibly in the company of Sergio Garcia, and he’ll be hoping to help Europe get off to a flyer in their defence of that little gold trophy.