Impassioned by golf, this company manager did his best to bring the mythical competition to France. The European and American teams will face each other for the first Ryder Cup in France at the Golf National from Sept 25 to 30 in the Paris region. Pascal Grizot walks France.fr through the backstage of the third most popular sporting event in the world, followed by one billion viewers.
How did you suceed convincing the Ryder Cup to organize the event in France, whereas it generally takes place in the United Kingdom or the United States?
It was a range of elements—first, the French players sent a strong signal of their attachment to the Ryder Cup by accepting a rise in their license fee in order to finance the event. Of course, the Golf National course hosts the French Open every year, and it is really appreciated by the professional players. Finally, there is the prestige and the attractiveness of Paris, and the proximity of the Palace of Versailles counted for a lot.
What was your motivation for such an adventure?
I am passionate about golf. Between 2005 and 2011, I was the captain of the French amateur team that helped some young talents as Victor Dubguisson and Alexander Levy find success. We won the European and World Championships with this team. I love this sport and I do volunteer work for the whole organization.
How many people are you expecting at the end of September at the Golf National?
We are going to break records. All the tickets were been sold in 1h20 online, and we are expecting 51,000 spectators by day from Friday to Sunday. Two years ago in Hazeltine (Minnesota), there were 45,000 spectators by day. Almost 3,000 media outlets are also scheduled to cover the event.
Are there any differences with this Ryder Cup in France compared to the previous editions?
The course was designed especially for events such as the Ryder Cup. It is truly a stadium course, dotted with many knolls where spectators can overhang the players to have a perfect view to watch the competition.
The previous editions took place on older and flatter courses. When you have so many viewers during this kind of events, you have a perfect view of the course as long as you are in the front row, but the further back you are, the more difficult it is to watch the competition.
The spectators will get a close look at two golf legends, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, in the American team...
Yes they will. The show would have been even better with a French player on the European team, but the spectators will get a unique opportunity to see the best players in the world. Tiger Woods (or the No. 1 in the world) and Dustin Johnson have never competed in a professional tournament in France. As for Phil Mickelson, he only played on the Disneyland course...25 years ago.
It is said that the American President Donald Trump, very keen on golf as many of his predecessors were, could visit Paris during the Ryder Cup...
It's true that with Donald Trump, anything is possible, all the more so, as the US leads. By the way, last year for the President Cup, there were four American presidents on the green, but it was in New York City. In any case, Macron will attend the event on Saturday (29 September).
From the touristic aspect, what are the advantages of France as a golf destination?
With Atout France (the France Tourism Development Agency, France.fr editor, ed) we lead our own strategy that differentiates us from reputed destinations like Spain, Portugal, Turkey, or Morrocco. France is the top visited destination in the world, and the idea is to highlight its splendid golf courses as a complement to its gastronomy, art de vivre, landscapes, monuments...