Even though it's a little less than a year away, the 2018 Ryder Cup is already off to an unforgettable start.
Ryder Cup USA Captain Jim Furyk and European counterpart Thomas Bjorn are in Paris this week for the 2018 Ryder Cup Year-Out Celebration.
So far, the trip has included a stop to host venue Le Golf National, a dinner at the Palace of Versailles Hall of Mirrors and an extra special stunt Tuesday morning where both captains hit golf shots off the Eiffel Tower, recreating a shot the late Arnold Palmer hit nearly 40 years ago.
"I'm absolutely blown away by the last two days to be honest," Furyk said during a press conference on Tuesday. "My gratitude to Ryder Cup Europe, the country of France for their hospitality and, what an amazing number of events. Last night, we had dinner at the Palace of Versailles, an unbelievable night. This morning, we had breakfast at the residence of the president. Today, we got to emulate, hit the same shot that one of my idols -- Arnold Palmer -- hit about 40 years ago. I can't imagine packing that all in to two days. It's been a phenomenal two days."
Furyk visited Le Golf National with his family for a scouting trip back in July. This is his second trip back to the venue.
Through friends from Europe that regularly play the PGA Tour, Furyk had heard great reviews of the golf course and figured it would be impossible to live up to the plaudits in person.
"They described the golf course and the expectations were high," Furyk said. "They talked about how it's one of the three to five-best courses they play on the European Tour, a spectacular venue. I heard about the stadium-type setting on 15-18. Usually when your expectations are so high and they talk about something so grand, it never really lives up to it. I was pleasantly surprised.
"It is a fantastic, fantastic site," Furyk said. "Not only for medal play, but I think it will provide a lot of strategy for match play. And then there's the setting. With that stadium-like atmosphere and the finish, Thomas and I talked yesterday while watching the juniors, that finish -- with the amount of people, the noise, the cheers, the crowd, it's going to be an incredible site. I look forward to it. That all marked together -- the site of Paris, the support of the country of France, a wonderful golf course -- this really could be the most grand setting ever in Ryder Cup history."
Though the Americans are the defending champions after a convincing 17-11 victory at Hazeltine National in 2016, Furyk and his team have a tall task ahead in France.
You have to go all the way back to 1993 -- 25 years once the 2018 matches tee off -- to find the last time the U.S. was victorious in Europe. That "W" belonged to the Tom Watson-led squad that came away with a 15-13 triumph at the Belfry in England.
In fact, since 1993, the Americans only have three Ryder Cup victories total. The first was a miracle, final-day comeback in 1999 at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., where the U.S. overcame a 10-6 deficit heading into Sunday's singles.
The second came nine years later at Valhalla under captain Paul Azinger and the last came just a year ago under Davis Love III's second captaincy in three Ryder Cups at Hazeltine.
Winning on the road -- particularly for the U.S. -- hasn't been easy.
"If you give the best players in the world 2-3 days of practice, they should be able to learn a golf course," Furyk said. "But surely in a Ryder Cup-like setting, and sport in general, any home match, is definitely an advantage just from a crowd perspective. My hats off to the European crowd. They make a lot of noise. Even in small numbers in the U.S., it takes about 30,000 American fans to drowned out 2,500 Europeans and their songs and chants. We're enamored with their skill set and the way they work together.
"We have 25 years of scars to overcome," Furyk added. "That being said, I will have a lot of young talent on my team. I'm anxious to see how they handle that challenge. And surely Europe has handled those away matches far better in the last 25 years than we have. So we might need to take a page from their book and try to figure it out. Hopefully we'll fare a little better than we have in the past."
For his part, Bjorn has been a member of three winning Ryder Cup teams as a player and has also been an assistant captain five times. The only losing experience for the Dane in the matches came at Hazeltine, where he assisted under Captain Darren Clarke.
"I'm a professional athlete and losing always hurts," Bjorn said when asked how much more motivated he was to win the Ryder Cup back in 2018 after the 2016 defeat. "There was certainly a transition in the European team at Hazeltine. The American team played unbelievably well and it became a very difficult task for Darren and the team. Sometimes we lose track that there's two very capable sides standing across from each other and there's only one that can win. It was the Americans' turn to win. They played better. It motivates you in that you know the feeling of standing with this trophy on Sunday night. It's a great experience, it's a great feeling for everybody involved. And that reaches way beyond the team... I'll do everything in my power to deliver a team that can win the Ryder Cup."
The 2018 Ryder Cup will be played Sept. 28-30.