In a fascinating interview, vice-captain Robert Karlsson reveals how the Moliwood pairing came to be and when the wildcards were decided
“The stats told us the Americans were three yards longer on average but that we hit three per cent more fairways. They are better than us from 75 to 125 yards and short putting so we turned that golf course into a 5- to 9-iron competition which then turned it to putting from 10 to 25 feet as you weren’t going to stiff that many.
“It was easy as the course is that way anyway. There are only three par 5 holes – the 3rd is always reachable, and at the 9th the tee was forward as you couldn’t use the back tee with four players, caddies, officials, TV, wives, coaches and hangers-on. Plus it was also matchplay. So that was another wedge gone.
“And we moved the 14th tee up a little bit.
“Thomas knew from two years out how he wanted the course set up. We made the 5th fairway really quirky to hit at 260 so we wanted the players to hit it 230 to 240 which then took another wedge out of your hands.
“On 6 we wanted them to take on the green but after the accident [where a spectator was hit by a Brooks Koepka drive] they kept the tee back so, other than that, there were no wedges on the course at all. We didn’t want to have a wedge contest. They did the same at Hazeltine.
“As the home team you have nothing to do with the set-up from Tuesday onwards and you do nothing with the pins which it says in the captain’s agreement.”
“We also looked at the height of the rough, trying to keep it as high as the French Open. There was a lot of high, wispy rough in June and it was such a hot summer that it had gone when we visited in August.
“Thomas then panicked as it had all gone, but the greenkeepers said not to worry as they had six weeks to go and 300 greenkeepers coming in, so they could do anything.
“They hand raked the rough, at holes like to the left on 3 and 4. At the 4th if you hit it over the bunker on the left it would be dead. The same at 17, if you are down the left you could wedge it out but you couldn’t control it. Henrik would hit 3-wood there to leave an 8-iron from the fairway.
“They had a big rake which was pulled behind a tractor and then hand raked and fertilised before hand watering it. There were certain areas we looked at, like 330 yards off the tee at the 3rd where a lot of the Americans could reach but only a small minority of our team would.
“The Americans play a slightly wilder game than the Europeans. They stand on tee and whack it, we play in different conditions and tend more to pick a spot. And that’s the way Le Golf National plays.”
“We did the pairings for the first day on the Wednesday after we had seen everyone play on the Tuesday and Wednesday. Thomas came with a piece of paper to the captains’ room and he said: ‘These are my thoughts, see you in an hour.’ And he just left us.
“We did actually change three of the eight pairings. He asked us why and he then agreed with us.
“He had his mind set on what he thought but he let us discuss it without him and then went with what we had chosen. Not many captains would do that and we were then all locked in with the plan. That was very good leadership.
“We didn’t have any pod systems or anything like that. I would naturally spend time with the Scandinavians but we wanted to see everybody play in practice so we switched it around.
“When you are just in smaller groups it is very easy to get blinded by wanting your players to play. We wanted to stay away from that and everyone moved about.
“In practice we wanted people to play with as many others as possible, to make it a team thing and also in case something happened and we needed options. The guys who played together on Friday would have played together at least once in practice.”
“The stats tell you that everyone should play on Friday. On 65 per cent of teams who win the Ryder Cup everyone has played on the first day. Then you look at teams that are working and go with them, then if you need to change go with the strongest team on Saturday.
“We won the foursomes 4-0 on Friday afternoon so why would you change anything there? We changed a couple of the fourballs on the Saturday morning. Jon Rahm and Poulter came in, Thorbjorn Olesen and Justin Rose didn’t play, and Sergio played with Rory McIlroy. Stenson we knew would only play foursomes.
“I really hadn’t given the singles order too much thought but Padraig had it all planned out in his head, where the winner would come from and the problems of playing first or last. When you play you only worry about what you are doing but he has been an assistant three times and he was looking at it very differently.”