NCG’s Alex Perry and Mark Townsend are at the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, so they’ve decided to keep a diary of their week in Paris in the only way they know how. Here’s how Saturday went down, and it started with a rather (un)interesting chat over croissants…
AP: I have a question for you: If you could assume the life of any of this year’s Ryder Cup players, who would you choose and why?
MT: Am I me as them? Or do I take over their life?
AP: You take over their life. You become them, if you will.
MT: Henrik Stenson. I’d gain five years, lose at least two stone and I’d be able to play in The Open for the next 18 years.
AP: But if you were, say, Jordan Spieth, you would gain more than 20 years, more than two stone, and you’d be able to play in The Open and The Masters until you can’t swing a golf club any more.
MT: I could also go on holiday with Rickie, JT and, err, the other one. He would be my American pick, I love him but, by the same token, I would be bald by the time I’m 30 and also American. With Stenson I’d have some amazing trousers and even more sensational knitwear. And my own hair.
AP: Well if you want to still be European and have good hair, surely Tommy is your man?
MT: Part of the prize of being Stenson would be my new-found friends, one of which would be Tommy. I like being in my 40s, Tommy’s got a one-year-old baby and I’ve just emerged from this period of not very much sleep with three little ones. And, in truth, the trousers and knitwear swing it too much.
AP: I’m going with Spieth or Thomas, despite the American/hair thing.
MT: How comfy would you be having to wear pinstripe trousers and singing the Star Spangled Banner with your hand across your chest?
AP: But I would be becoming an American, so overstated patriotism and awful dress sense just comes as part of the package.
MT: What would I have to give you to be Bubba?
AP: A Claret Jug, a new accent, and rid the internet of any evidence that the Golf Boys was ever a thing.
MT: In my humble opinion the Golf Boys was the best thing he’s ever done.
AP: I did once read in an interview that he would swap his Green Jackets for Oh Oh Oh being a smash hit…
AP: I actually got out to watch some golf today, which was lovely. I headed out to the little triangle of land between 15, 16 and 17 and watched the four groups come through there. A lot has been said about the fans booing the American players, but the atmosphere is generally electric.
MT: Mine was watching ‘Moliwood’ put an arm round each other as the Americans teed off at the 5th. I looked round and there were six different European nationalities. It all got a bit too much for me.
AP: They also got chocolate bars in the media centre cafe – which lasted all of an hour.
MT: Nipping out to the 9th to watch the foursomes come through. Then watching Stenson and Rose fail to get it up and down, the Americans successfully doing likewise and then realising that it would be at least 20 minutes until the next group came through. So we came back to the media centre.
AP: I went to the merchandise tent to buy my daughter a Ryder Cup teddy bear – because what toddler doesn’t want that? – and they had sold out. So yeah, thanks everyone, you’ve made a 2-year-old cry.
MT: Today started a bit better than Thursday. There wasn’t a threatening note left on our car for starters.
AP: As your French is better than mine, care to share?
MT: It said: ‘If still possible run away from this hotel. If not you will be in deep troubles very soon!’
AP: And then last night we took it in turns to keep watch…
Morning on the 1st tee
AP: As great and unique as being on the 1st tee for the opening morning of the Ryder Cup is, I feel like the atmosphere was a bit… flat.
MT: I haven’t got much else to compare it to, other than eight shots in the persisting rain in Wales, but it wasn’t quite as noisy or buzzy as I had expected. I did enjoy the compere and other, funnier characters drowning out the Guardians of the… I can’t even bring myself to writing their full name.
AP: They looked utterly dejected. It was very funny. I did find the use of a compere rather disappointing. I’ve only experienced Gleneagles before and there was nothing but the crowd creating atmoshpere. It was wonderful. Having someone screaming “EUROPE!” into a microphone every 10 minutes felt a bit naff.
MT: It was nice to reminisce back to 2 Unlimited and an illegal rave in Barking…
AP: Do you like the Thunderclap?
MT: When 10,000 Icelanders do it, very much so. It’s OK, something to do and it’s a pretty straightforward way for players to interact. If it’s alright by Tommy it’s alright by me.
MT: Other than Tommy and Frankie, was a French journalist in front of me in the queue for a coffee at 11.30am.
“For me, one large glass of rosé.”
He was the man I always hoped to be.
AP: Why was he talking in English?
MT: The cashier was English, it added to the moment.
AP: Tommy and Frankie – can we pull that off? – were something else though. Molinari’s gone from having never won a Ryder Cup match to winning two in less than four hours.
MT: Indeed, this afternoon was the feel-good afternoon of all afternoons. Three of the captain’s picks all winning and then our new anchor pair beating four major winners. Molinari’s new stature in the game is bloody lovely, Fleetwood being by his side will put them straight into quite a few of our favourite all-time European pairings.
AP: Care to argue that anyone other than Tommy and Frankie were the heroes of day 1?
MT: Absolutely not.
MT: Using the last sheet of loo roll and having the cheek to still offer a weak smile to the next incumbent. I’m slightly worried I’m going to keep seeing him throughout the week.
AP: I mean, that’s just too much information. I was going to moan about the lack of chocolate on offer in the media centre – we’re in France, for goodness sake – but now I just feel a bit queezy.
MT: Any thoughts on the Americans’ wardrobe? Their white trousers seemed more billowy than perhaps they needed to have been.
AP: White trousers on the first day of a Ryder Cup is awfully brave. As is almost always the case I thought the European team were much better dressed.
MT: I’m hoping for a dash of colour from our boys tomorrow. First day and all that but there was an awful lot of dark blue. Says the person sat here dressed in eight different items of navy blue clothing.
MT: Le Golf National looks immaculate.
AP: I was genuinely struck by how much more immaculate it looks than when we were here five or so weeks ago.
MT: For all the clichés and general platitudes it really looks a genuine spectacle. There’ll be plenty of chat about the grandstand behind the 1st tee and 18th green and rightly so, it’s immense.
AP: Given how little was built when we were here, I’m gobsmacked at how much has been done in what is essentially a little more than a month.
— Mark Townsend (@MarkTownsendNCG) September 27, 2018
MT: Every French golfer who has ever played the game seems to be here..
AP: And David Ginola.
David Ginola rehearsing for the #RyderCup opening ceremony.
I don’t really have anything to add other than I hope I look half as good as that in my 50s. pic.twitter.com/UpJSYQsX8Q
— Alex Perry (@AlexPerryNCG) September 27, 2018
MT: They’ve all got a smile on their face. Past captains and players are dotted around everywhere, chip shots are received as though it’s a hole won on Sunday and it’s like nothing else. Well done France.
AP: Bien joué, Francais.
MT: That’s French.
AP: I know.
MT: No, “Francais” means “French”. “France” is “France”.
MT: Who knew driving approximately 450 miles from Leeds to Versailles could be so enjoyable?
AP: Helped by the fact you and I did none of it.
MT: And by a debut in the Channel Tunnel for half an hour.
AP: The best bit of which was when we emerged on the other side and our young colleague Harvey asked: “Are we in France?”
MT: There is so much beautiful French countryside, and loads of golf courses everywhere.
AP: We had a good sing of The Marseillaise.
MT: I familiarised myself with the lyrics. It’s so violent it actually scared me – ‘The roaring of these fierce soldiers? They come right to our arms. To slit the throats of our sons, our friends!’
AP: It’s a great national anthem, though. Probably the best.
MT: In my humble-slash-biased opinion it ranks second behind Land Of My Fathers.
AP: I am pleased you’re here though. Your French is very good. Certainly better than your Welsh.
MT: I have been re-living the glory days of my French A level. Dazzling the cashier at a service station where I purchased a cheap pair of sunglasses was a high point.
AP: And you ordered all our pizzas and beers.
MT: Helped by the fact the four of us had the same pizza and the same beers.
AP: Asking the hotel receptionist for towels wasn’t your finest hour…
MT: No. Towels is “des serviettes” and I instead requested “des assiettes”. Which would explain why he returned, after some time, with four plates.
AP: It was funny though.
MT: In my defence it had been a long day, that A level was in 1989, and, as my D grade demonstrated, I wasn’t very good. If you’re short of a pillow I can help you – des oreillers, s’il vous plait – will get the job done.
AP: I just want it to get underway now. I feel like it comes around so quickly then before you know it it’s the day before and those 24 hours feel like a lifetime.
MT: I need the matches to get underway. My maths is seemingly as bad as my French and I’ve been unable to work out how many possible permutations of pairings there are from 12 players but I think I have considered every one. Each round of practice fourballs has reassured and blown my head off in equal measure and, having finally got my head around who’s going to partner Tommy Fleetwood, he’s then paired up with big Jonny Rahm with Stenson and Rose. This, I tell myself, is a contingency practice. I’ve spent too many quiet periods, going back to the EurAsia Cup in January, who might play with who and, for the sake of my own sanity, I just need to be told and out of my misery.
— Mark Townsend (@MarkTownsendNCG) September 27, 2018
AP: And your astute observations from the press conference?
MT: I quite like the way they do this, wheeling in four players, one after the other. Today we had Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler. My conclusions are that Finau is a class act, humble, interesting and has very long limbs. DJ was as non-plussed as ever but we’ll forgive him everything just for the way he walks, Koepka will never pull up any trees with his chat but seems nice enough and Fowler is either more intelligent or tries harder than his team-mates. Probably both.
AP: My biggest lowlight of the day, other than losing my sunglasses within five minutes of arriving, was the opening ceremony. I just can’t stand these sickly, lovey-dovey affairs.
I went to the Ryder Cup opening ceremony so you didn't have tohttps://t.co/N8DUJJyAd6
— Alex Perry (@AlexPerryNCG) September 27, 2018
MT: Where are you at clichéd French food bingo? I have so far ticked steak haché and croque monsieur…
AP: So a burger and cheese on toast.
MT: I also had French onion soup.
AP: Which you mistakenly used as a dressing for your steak.
AP: Sacré bleu.
MT: Looking forward to putting some café au lait on my croissants in the morning…