No pressure, fellas.
No pressure, fellas.

‘Nothing like it’: The most intimidating shot in golf

SOME things in life you cannot simulate until you experience the real thing.

The unmistakable rush of adrenaline coursing through a golfer's body while standing on the first tee at a Ryder Cup is one of those things.

It's like an NFL player about to run through the stadium tunnel onto the field for a Super Bowl feeling like he's going to pop out of his skin.

There isn't a golf tournament in the world - not the Masters, US Open, British Open nor PGA Championship - that can match the intensity and intimidation the players fortunate enough to experience it feel on the first tee at a Ryder Cup.

And for this week's matches, which begin Friday at Le Golf National, that rush figures to pack an even more powerful punch because the grandstands behind the first tee are, by far, the largest in the history of the event, fitting some 7000 fans.

"I think it's going to be one of the most amazing experiences in any sport being on that first tee,'' European captain Thomas Bjorn said.

"I still remember my first shot, who I was playing with, what club I hit,'' US captain Jim Furyk, a veteran of nine Ryder Cups as a player, said.

"I hit a 3-wood at Valderrama so far … it might be the longest 3-wood I've ever hit to this day. I out-drove everyone in my group by 20 yards, and I was by far the shortest guy in the group.

"I was just so jacked up and flushed it … I mean, it went forever. I hit like three less clubs into the green than I had all week (in the practice rounds). I think I flipped a wedge in there (to the green). I was shocked.

"Yeah, the club feels light and sometimes you don't remember the swing very well because you were nervous, but that's the spot that every one of these guys on both sides want to be in.''

Spaniard Jon Rahm, one of five rookies on the European side, said he "can't explain what that first tee is going to be like.''

"The only time I've seen stands this big is in a football stadium,'' he said. "I've had people that have experienced great things in golf tell me that a final tee time in a major is a two out of 10 compared to the first tee in a Ryder Cup.''

Patrick Reed said when he first looked at the enormous grandstands behind the first tee "I looked up and felt like I kept looking up and up and up.''

"There's going to be so many people that are sitting in there, it's going to be an unbelievable atmosphere,'' Reed said. "There's nothing like the first tee at a Ryder Cup.''

Reed vividly recalled his first Ryder Cup tee shot, in 2014 at Gleneagles in Scotland.

"That was the worst tee shot I've hit in both my Ryder Cups,'' he said. "I step up on the tee and my adrenaline is just through the roof and I look around and I feel like all the air has just gotten sucked out of the room when they announced us to hit.''

Reed popped the tee shot up and had 3-iron into the green while his playing partners had 9-irons and pitching wedges in.

Reed's pop-up, however, was nothing compared to the infield fly Webb Simpson delivered off his 3-wood in 2014 at Gleneagles. Simpson claimed it went 205 yards, but that might be an overstatement.

The first question Simpson fielded on Wednesday in his press conference was about that shot.

"Are you referring to the pop-up?'' Simpson said with a smile.

"Probably the most nerve-racking tee shot I've ever hit was in 2014,'' Jordan Spieth said of his first shot at Gleneagles as a rookie in '14.

"I didn't know what all the fuss was about,'' Rory McIlroy said of his first Ryder Cup in 2010 in Wales.

"I thought it was this team event that really doesn't matter in the big scheme of things. I was more concerned about individual titles and all that.

"(But) once I got on to that first tee on Friday morning, I thought, 'Oh, this is a little different than I expected.'

"It's nerve-racking. I'm sure Friday morning it will be no different. It's a huge grandstand. Playing a practice round (Tuesday) there was basically no people in it and I still got goose bumps looking at it and thinking, 'On Friday, this thing is going to be packed.'''

European rookie Tommy Fleetwood said, "The No. 1 thing I've pictured since the Ryder Cup kind of became a goal is that first tee shot.''

"The grandstand is pretty big, there's no denying that,'' Fleetwood said.

"As nerve-racking as it is and whatever those feelings are, everybody wants that in their life. I've thought about it plenty, but nothing prepares you for the real thing.''

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