With apologies to my good buddy, Padraig Harrington -- captain of Team Europe in this year's Ryder Cup matches -- I'm all-in for Team USA as this competition continues.
OK ... it's probably not fair to call Paddy my "good buddy." We met once at an event and had a very good conversation -- about golf, our shared Irish heritage and family. He's a terrific guy. But we're not "good buddies." And this week, my American patriotism requires that I hope the Amercans send him back to Europe Sunday night having shattered his dreams of a captaining a victorious Ryder Cup team.
USA! USA! USA!
I love the Ryder Cup. Team USA hasn't been very successful in the matches for quite some time, and there are a hundred theories why. But it's time for the Americans to give the Europeans a good thumping. After Day 1, the US Team is off to a great start, and I'm here for it. It's especially fun watching this year, as the competition plays out at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wisconsin, which just might be my favorite course of all the places I've played to date.
I played Whistling Straits on a gorgeous October day in 2010. I'd booked my trip during the 4th round of the PGA Championship, just as Dustin Johnson was famously grounding his club in a bunker that was/wasn't/was/wasn't really a bunker and giving away the championship. The resort at Kohler was running an incredible deal through the rest of the year -- an opportunity to play both the Straits and the Irish courses at Whistling Straits, a lesson with a pro, and a round on the original championship course at Blackwolf Run. After seeing the beauty of Whistling Straits on television, I couldn't pass it up.
And the course did not disappoint. Neither did the weather! Booking in mid-October, I had concerns I might arrive in Wisconsin to find freezing-cold temperatures and maybe even snow. Instead, I landed in Milwaukee on a Wednesday in 90-degree heat. And the weather all week was perfect for golf.
I took my lesson from a pro about an hour before teeing off at Whistling Straits and found myself grouped with three great guys, including a guy named Glen Campbell who was definitely not THE Glen Campbell. A swing fix I'd gotten from my golf instructor just before the round dramatically improved my play ... for a week or so ... and had these guys thinking I was a much better player than I really was as I hit fairway after fairway getting around the course that day.
When you hear that there are more than 1,000 bunkers at Whistling Straits, I didn't count, but I think that number might be conservative. There is sand EVERYWHERE. It's daunting. Intimidating, even. And absolutely perfect. It's almost impossible to tell whether the bunkers were dreamt up by course architects Pete and Alice Dye or if the bunkers were put there by God and the Dyes simply designed this incredible course around and between them.
I've said a number of times that I really think Whistling Straits may be my favorite course, which seems like blasphemy to some who know that I've played Pebble Beach, Oakmont and a handful of others that rank significantly higher. At present, Whistling Straits ranks just 23rd and 49th, respectively, on the Top 100 lists by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine. But I absolutely loved everything about the place -- the aesthetic, the character of the place, the number of holes that play along and above the shoreline of Lake Michigan, the shots the course required, the playability for everyone in our group, and more. And I'm sure it didn't help that I was playing the course exceptionally well (versus Pebble, for instance, where I had enjoyed every minute but played terribly back in 2002). I don't think Whistling Straits is the prettiest course I've ever played. That would probably be Punta Espada in the Dominican Republic. But it may be the course I enjoyed the most.
I don't have a ton of great photos from my round at Whistling Straits, so I'm not going to do a hole-by-hole breakdown here. But as we all watch the Ryder Cup play out over the next day or so, I wanted to share some of the shots I took that day (with the camera, rather than my golf clubs) that capture just some of what I think make this such a special place to play and an experience every golfer should have at least once in their life.
Yes, that was my approach on No. 10. And yes, I did make the birdie putt!
As I post this, it's Saturday morning, and the Americans are up 6 to 2 over the Europeans, with each team leading two matches in the morning foursomes. It's going to be an exciting rest of the weekend.
USA! USA! USA!