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Scots one up in Ryder Cup race
Mike Aitken, The Scotsman, 24 January 2001
Scotland's bid to host the 2009 Ryder Cup will be boosted by
concerns that the Welsh submission is flawed by a venue which currently fails
to meet course requirements for the biennial contest between Europe and the
With the Ryder Cup committee due to meet on 13 and 14
February to assess the bid documents - the North of England is the third
candidate - Scotland approach the final hurdle as favourites to win a tight
race. Though there is little to choose between bidders on investment in the
game or support for development of junior golf, Scotland is believed to have a
clear advantage in terms of courses.
Wales (Celtic Manor) and the North of England (Slaley Hall)
are single-centre bids, but Scotland offers a variety of parkland and links
venues which have established international reputations. Gleneagles offers
every facility a Ryder Cup would need, and Turnberry, Loch Lomond, Muirfield,
St Andrews and Carnoustie are also superior to what can be delivered
Members of the Ryder Cup committee have still to study the
three bids in detail, but my understanding is that strong misgivings persist
about the Wentwood Hills layout. Indeed, the course which hosted the Welsh Open
last summer is regarded as so unsuitable for match play that plans have been
drawn up to replace a third of its holes for 2009. Designed by Robert Trent
Jones Jnr on land which rises and falls from the Usk valley, it is eccentric in
character, and at the Welsh Open, eventual winner Steen Tinning started the
week wondering if he should have brought skis rather than golf shoes.
New Zealander Greg Turner took one look, and complained:
"It felt like I was playing on a skyscraper, hitting shots from the ground to
the 15th floor and vice-versa. Tell you what, if there was global warming and
the sea rose 60 feet, the course might be a good option.
Not surprisingly, the Welsh are aware of the courses
shortcomings, and have already planned a remedy.
After they played the Welsh Open there last year,
Mike Stewart of the PGA and some of the pros came along to suggest some
changes, especially at the 15th and 16th holes," reported Tony Lewis, chairman
of the Welsh bid, yesterday. Since then its been made pretty plain
that Wentwood Hills wouldnt do for the Ryder Cup when the players have to
complete two rounds a day. So what weve done is to talk to the European
Tours course design department, and give them the latitude to make any
My understanding is that the bottom 12 holes near the
river are regarded as fantastic, and the other six wont be involved. The
plan is to build a fourth course at Celtic Manor, and then come up with a Ryder
Cup layout. Brian Huggett has been taken on as a consultant, not just for the
Ryder Cup, but to establish Celtic Manor as the prime European Tour destination
When you think about how long it took to get the
Belfry right, we feel weve got plenty of time.
While Terry Matthews, the billionaire who owns Celtic
Manor, has pockets deep enough to fund radical alterations, it beggars belief
that the committee would award the match to an unseen course.
Bearing in mind that Matthews insists he is in for the long
haul, it could be that Celtic Manor would be better placed to host the 2013
As for Slaley Hall, the huge crowds attracted by the Ryder
Cup mean that worries have arisen that bottlenecks could crop up on certain
parts of the course.
But awarding the Ryder Cup to a controversial or
undistinguished venue would not be a first for the prestigious event.
Valderrama, site of the 1997 match; the Belfry, venue this year well as in
1985, 1989 and 1993; and the K Club, where the contest will be played in 2005,
all have their critics.
This didnt stop Jaime Patinho, owner of Valderrama,
from taking the match to Spain or Michael Smurfit, owner of the K Club, from
repeating the trick in Dublin.
Although Matthews is ambitious to make it a Ryder Cup
hat-trick for the games entrepreneurs, selecting Celtic Manor, when more
suitable venues exist in other parts of the United Kingdom, could prove to be
too much of a gamble for officials.
The PGA is known to favour a swift announcement of the
successful candidate, if the committee can reach a decision in mid-February.
However, committees, just like juries, can be notoriously fickle, and should no
decision be finalised next month, it is possible that the process could go on
until early summer. more Ryder Cup
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