Golf Channel Academy lead coach Claude Brousseau knows a thing or two about Paris and Le Golf National, host site of this weekend’s 42ndRyder Cup Matches. A member of the PGA of France, Claude founded the first short game academy in France at Golf PGA France du Vaudreuil, where he still conducts golf schools in the summer. He’s also played Le Golf National a handful of times and will be at the Matches this weekend.
We asked Claude for a few takeaways on Le Golf National, what he thinks will be the pivotal set of holes in the Matches and, most importantly, who he thinks will be hoisting the Cup come Sunday afternoon. With an assist from Guillaume Biaugeaud, Director of Golf at du Vaudreuil, and Cyril Bougaux, a former anchor and commentator with CANAL+—France’s version of Golf Channel—here are Claude’s answers to five burning questions about the Ryder Cup.
Question: A lot will depend on how European Captain Thomas Bjorn sets up the course, but does Le Golf National seem to favor one squad or another?
Brousseau: It’s a very demanding course, very strategical. It’s more of a target golf course, not a bomber’s course. You have to be very precise with your tee shots. At the Open de France [a European Tour event held each year at Le Golf National], players only hit driver three to four times a round on average. The teams will have to decide when to use driver or not, and when to use a 3-wood or long iron off the tee, and that would seem to favor the Europeans because they’re more familiar with the course. There’s an advantage to having played the course, knowing the pitfalls and where is the best place to miss.
Q: What stretch of holes figures to provide the sternest test for the players?
Brousseau: I would say holes 15-18, for sure. No. 15 is a hole many of the players will fear because the margin for error is very slim—the green is surrounded by water. No. 16 is a modest par 3 and will be the players’ last chance to make birdie. It would be extremely surprising if anyone made birdie on 17 or 18. No. 18 is a converted par 5. The golfer can be aggressive with his drive; however, he’ll need to aim down the right side of the fairway and if he misses the rough is really high there. They also added a bunker there so the landing area is very narrow. More likely than not, players will hit a 3-wood or long iron off the tee and then will need a 5- or 6-iron to get to the green.
Q: What are some other pivotal holes to watch?
Brousseau: If the matches don’t go all the way to the last few holes then the holes most likely to dictate the outcome are Nos. 12 and 13. Both are dogleg-right holes with very demanding tee shots. The landing areas are very narrow, and if the players don’t find the fairway, they’re going to struggle to find the putting surface and make par. No. 9 is far and away the toughest of the three par 5s. Players face a diabolical second shot. There’s no advantage to going for the green in two, so players with a strong wedge game will lay up and try and make birdie from there. No. 6 is a drivable par 4 if they put the tee up front.
Q: Who’s your pick for American MVP and European MVP this week?
Brousseau: For the Americans, Rickie Fowler. He is due for a fantastic performance in a big event. He’s the best player not to win a major and he wants to prove himself. For the Europeans, it’s Ian Poulter. He lives for this type of stage and he’s had a good run the last few months.
Q: Who’s your pick to win the Cup?
Brousseau: It’s close, but USA 15-13. I think the Americans will prevail because they will rapidly adjust to the strategic aspect of the course. They also have more major champions [three of the four this year, plus The Players Championship and Tour Championship] and are better at putting. Plus, Tiger is in great form and there’s a little concern among the Europeans that the crowd will switch and root for Tiger and the U.S. That may negate some of the home course advantage for the Europeans.