PARIS, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Nearly every player who has lifted a club at the Ryder Cup has described that moment standing on the first tee as one of the most nervous of their professional lives.
This week, with a first tee grandstand holding almost 7,000 people at Le Golf National, the noise levels and atmosphere are likely to scale new heights.
Below the 2018 captains and a selection of players relate their own “first moment” Ryder Cup memories and look ahead to Friday morning.
Thomas Bjorn (Europe captain) First Ryder Cup - Valderrama 1997.
“The first tee at Valderrama is the tightest fairway in the whole world of golf. So, when you’re standing on the first tee at Valderrama in The Ryder Cup, there’s not much to hit at.
“It was a wonderful experience, it’s an opportunity but that doesn’t mean that you’re not extremely nervous. You have that kind of excess of feeling in your body where you lose a little bit of control of what you’re doing.”
Jim Furyk (United States captain) - Valderrama 1997.
“The Ryder Cup first tee - there’s nothing like it. It is an unbelievable experience. I still remember my first shot, who I was playing with, what club I hit.
“There’s a mixture of nerves and excitement. I hit the 3-wood at Valderrama so far. I out-drove everyone in my group by 20 yards, and I was by far the shortest guy in the group, but I was just so wired and jacked up.
“I love it. I look up there and I see the fans chant and they are singing songs and give us a wave, and the place is going absolutely bananas, and it’s an atmosphere that I always just loved.” = = = Rory McIlroy (Europe) - Celtic Manor 2010. “Going into my first Ryder Cup, I didn’t know what all the fuss was about. Once I got on to that first tee on Friday morning, I thought, ‘oh, this is a little different than I expected’.
“It’s nerve-racking; you try and put your ball on that tee and it takes you a couple times to get it to settle on there.
“It’s a huge grandstand here. Playing a practice round yesterday, there was basically no people in it, and I still got goosebumps looking at it and thinking, on Friday, this thing is going to be packed.”
Patrick Reed (U.S.) - Gleneagles 2014.
“That was the worst tee shot I’ve hit in both my Ryder Cups throughout the entire tournaments. It was a 3-wood pitching wedge, if that.
“I go and step up on the tee, I get there and my adrenaline is just through the roof, and I look around and I feel like all the air has just got sucked out of the room when they announced us to hit.
“Yes, I skied it, but I hit the fairway and ended up halving the hole, but there’s nothing like the first tee at a Ryder Cup. You step up on that first tee and just the thoughts that go through your mind that, ‘hey, I’m here representing my country’.
“You know millions of people are watching back home, and just the juices are flowing through you, just through the roof. It’s an awesome feeling.”
Tiger Woods (U.S.) - Valderrama 1997
“I remember going out with Mark O’Meara and I was telling him I wanted to play the even holes. He was the vet, so he says, ‘the way the course sets up, you should tee off the odds’....
“I said no, ‘I want evens - because then you have to hit the first tee shot’.
“So there’s a lot of nerves. It’s excitement because basically it’s the final round of a tournament on the very first hole and every match you tee it up. It’s a different atmosphere and one that we absolutely love.”
Ian Poulter (Europe) - Oakland Hills 2004
“The excitement level going down to that first tee shot was something very special. It’s hard to explain.
“Walking to the first tee at Augusta, walking to the first tee at St. Andrews, walking to the first tee in The Ryder Cup is that different.”
Jordan Spieth (U.S.) - Gleneagles 2014
“I thought probably the most nerve-racking tee shot I’ve ever hit was in 2014. It’s one of the coolest moments of my golf career was getting started there, and playing an away game, but representing your country in The Ryder Cup. I mean, growing up as a golfer, that’s an ultimate goal for us.”
Webb Simpson (U.S.) - Medinah 2012
“The pop up! Why it’s even funnier to me, it was funny to everybody, but that was a shot I had in my bag all year. It was like the fifth time I had done it. I was losing my concentration a little bit and I teed it up a little too high, usually it goes straight down, that one went straight up.
“The funniest, most embarrassing part of it was that the camera crews went ahead to where we normally drive it, so they are all coming back.”
Justin Rose (Europe) - Valhalla 2008
“No matter how many times, I don’t think you can ever really walk on to that first tee Friday and go, ‘yeah, this feels normal’. Of course it feels good. You feel alive.
“Jose Maria Olazabal gave us a little memento one year, and it says, ‘All men die but not all men live’. I think what he meant by that is feeling that adrenaline, feeling that whatever you want to call it, feeling that emotion.
“I think especially this year, the scenes around that first tee will be absolutely amazing. It’s the most incredible first tee shot I’ve ever seen for sure. Normally you tee up the driver and hope for the best, but now you might have to hit a good old 3-iron down there. Could be interesting.”
Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond