‘Risk-free’ French bid wins Ryder Cup

FRANCE won the right to host the 2018 Ryder Cup after presenting a bid described by European Tour chief executive George O’Grady as both exceptional and risk-free.

The 42nd edition of the biennial match will be staged at Le Golf National in Versailles, just outside Paris, the venue for 18 of the last 20 French Open tournaments.

The Ryder Cup has been played on the continent just once before, at Valderrama in Spain in 1997 when Severiano Ballesteros captained Europe to victory.

There had been calls from the Ballesteros family to award the 2018 event to Spain in honour of the five-time major winner, who was patron of the Madrid bid and died earlier this month.

But the Ryder Cup Europe committee resisted the emotional pull, with O’Grady insisting all five bids had been evaluated strictly on their merits.

Madrid were deemed to be France’s closest rivals but, crucially, the course they had identified for the Ryder Cup is yet to be built. It may now never be. That proved decisive.

The final decision — to select France ahead of Spain, Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands — was ratified at the European Tour’s Wentworth headquarters yesterday morning.

“France’s bid was exceptional. They have a first-class tournament venue already built,” said O’Grady.

“In these tough economic times we can see where we are going. We are leaving nothing to chance on building a new course.”

World number three Martin Kaymer, a member of Europe’s victorious 2010 Ryder Cup team, was disappointed Germany missed out but he admitted Le Golf National was a major factor.

“France had a very strong bid and had a lot of support from the French government — and I think the most important thing is that they have a fantastic golf course,” said Kaymer, who won the French Open two years ago.

The evaluation committee’s decision to select France did not only hinge on the quality of the venue, with the event’s popularity meaning the Ryder Cup is now big business.

Each bidding nation had to give financial commitments and outline plans for a lasting legacy of the match. The French bid received government backing.

France have already secured hosting rights to the 2016 European football championships and are hoping to complete a sporting hat-trick by staging the 2018 Winter Olympics in Annecy. The winning bid contained a pledge to build 100 urban courses. The event will largely be funded by the country’s own 400,000-strong golf community, who will each pay €3 a year until 2022.

The French Golf Federation have a budget of €6 million to improve the Ryder Cup course before the event.

O’Grady insisted the decision to hand France the hosting rights ahead of Spain was not a missed opportunity to pay tribute to Ballesteros.

“I don’t think it’s a missed opportunity at all in the sense that we’ve been well aware of the legacy of Severiano Ballesteros throughout this bidding process,” he said.

“We feel for him. We feel for what he stood for but we’ve been aware of that, aware of his terrible illness for quite some time. It’s just at the moment the French bid was outstanding on the guidelines we laid down.”

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