Presidents Cup captains Jim Furyk, Mike Weir share first impressions of Royal Montreal Golf Club
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Written by Adam Stanley @Adam_Stanley
ILE BIZARD, Quebec – At first blush, 12 months away from the 2024 Presidents Cup, U.S. Team Captain Jim Furyk says when International Captain Mike Weir sets up the golf course, it’s not unlikely accuracy will be a premium for success.
“The way you play a golf course depends on the set up,” said Furyk, who finished second at the 2014 RBC Canadian Open at Royal Montreal Golf Club, with Tim Clark topping him by one. Clark was first in fairways hit and fourth in greens in regulation. Furyk was not far behind in either category.
“If you get out here and there’s just 1-inch rough everywhere you can make it a place you can launch it and find it,” Furyk continued. “But if you grow 4-inch rough and keep the fairways pretty tight, now you’re looking for good ball-strikers, guys who hit a lot of fairways and that’s how it was set up in 2014. A lot of it will depend on the set up.
“It’s going to be about keeping the ball in play and hitting some good shots.”
Although this won’t be the first time the International squad will have the lead on course set-up at the Presidents Cup, it’s the first time since 2011 the International captain will be from the country where the matches are held.
Weir has plenty of history at Royal Montreal’s Blue Course, having defeated Tiger Woods in an epic Sunday Singles match in 2007 – the last time the Presidents Cup was contested in Canada.
Weir, who was announced as the International captain in December, was recently on site at Royal Montreal for five days. His European-based analytics team joined for two of the days, and that team is putting together a document for the captain to look at and analyze shortly.
What will the numbers show to help Weir identify the kind of course he wants to set up to win?
The front nine at Royal Montreal, Weir said, will be more scoreable. The back nine, meanwhile, has a “few more demanding holes.”
Andrew Harvie, a Canadian golf architecture expert and founder of the course design blog, “Beyond the Contour,” said the current iteration of Royal Montreal’s Blue Course – designed by Dick Wilson and re-worked by Rees Jones in preparation of the 2007 Presidents Cup – showcases an era of golf-course architecture that demanded precision and accuracy.
“The front nine punishes mistakes, while the back nine tempts you into taking the match into your own hands,” Harvie said regarding why it makes for a solid match-play test. “Coming down the stretch, you have three meaty par 4s and a short par 3. Most of the matches will come down to this stretch and around this corner (Nos. 15-18), (and) you’ll have great viewing. The atmosphere will for sure be a factor.”
Unlike the American side, where Furyk says it’s likely that five to 10 of the current Ryder Cup team members will also be on his Presidents Cup team, Weir has much fewer “sure things” for his squad.
Weir says he’ll be paying more attention to the Ryder Cup than in years’ past.
“You know what Team USA is going to come and do,” Weir said. “They’re going to play great. They’re great players. To win this thing, you have to play great. I don’t care who you are. You have to step up and play great golf.”
Weir will be getting out early to a bunch of PGA TOUR events over the next eight months as his team comes together. Once the calendar turns, he’ll have a better sense of how the team is shaping up – and that will help with how he wants the course to play.
“We still don’t know who will be on our team – that will be another factor (for setting up the course),” Weir said. “Come spring and seeing how we’ll have a little more data by then and who is creeping towards being on the team, we can start formulating that plan for the golf course.”
Furyk says the U.S. Team’s recent Ryder Cup scouting trip to Marco Simone Golf and Country Club showed the American side how thick and penal the rough would be. At one point there were six people looking for a drive that found the rough and no one could find it. There are three driveable par-4s, Furyk noted, and a lot of risk-reward opportunities. It is set up, he says, for plenty of drama.
By the time the Presidents Cup rolls around, it will mark the second away-game in a row for Furyk as an American leader. But with Weir navigating the “who” for his team and how the course will best reflect the team he will be working with, the majority of Furyk’s team is likely set. So, he’ll come to Royal Montreal with a simple strategy to navigate a layout set by his opponents.
“There is going to be a golf course in front of us, and we’re going to have to react to that course and play it well and figure out the best way for each guy,” Furyk said. “Each guy will need to figure out the best way to get it around the golf course, and as captains, we have to put these guys in pairings and in situations that they can be successful.”
Furyk knows a thing or two about being successful at Royal Montreal. And now he’ll wait and see what Weir’s course setup will offer in the Canadian’s debut as International team captain.