Over the years there have been a lot of things written about Hazeltine National, site of the year’s Ryder Cup, and not all of them have been complimentary (at the 1970 US Open Jack Nicklaus said, “it’s like playing Blindman’s bluff”).
While Rees Jones, son of original designer Robert Trent Jones, Sr., has made numerous changes and improvements to the layout over the years, one thing stands out above all others about the relatively featureless farmland layout — it’s long. In fact, at 7,628 yards, it’s the second longest Ryder Cup course in history, only about 30 yards shorter than Medinah.
With this in mind, as well as the fact that the rough is fairly playable this week, it’s no surprise that players like U.S. rookie Brooks Koepka are putting driving distance at a premium this week. As a Nike staffer who doesn’t have a current club contract, Koepka has switched from his previous Vapor Fly to a TaylorMade M2 driver, and evidently feels like he’s ready to let it rip.
“I know guys are going to be trying to hit it far, and with the rough down it’s not a big deal,” said Koepka. “Pretty much I guess our mentality right now is just hit as far as you can off that tee. I think having a couple of wedges, shorter irons into these greens is going to be a big difference.”
Though it’s not entirely clear why the big hitting rookie, who averaged 302.6 yards off the tee this year, made the switch to the same model as Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose, you can safely bet he believes it’s the longest, straightest model for his swing. Keep an eye on Koepka’s tee shots this week to see if he’s right.