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2009 Ryder Cup
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Axe hangs over links in Scottish Ryder Cup campaign

Mike Aitken, The Scotsman, 21 February 2001

The three links courses which are part of Scotland’s Ryder Cup campaign for 2009 face the axe from the bid this spring following a request from the match committee to reduce the number of potential venues.

While Wales supports Celtic Manor and the North of England backs Slaley Hall, Scotland’s £24million bid document offers a choice of Gleneagles, Loch Lomond, Carnoustie, St Andrews and Turnberry.

Originally, the bidding process was expected to see the PGA/Ryder Cup Ltd make a decison on the successful country at the end of this month before naming the winning course in September before the match between Europe and the United States. But that plan was abandoned in favour of making a simultaneous course and country announcement at the Belfry.

Sandy Jones, chief executive of the PGA, said: "The logistics of naming the country and then the venue were not that simple, and put an unfair strain on everyone.

"But I don’t accept the original strategy was a failure. What it did was to galvanise all the bidders into making commitments to the Ryder Cup and the game. That’s now all in place, and if you were judging the merits of the bids on that aspect alone, it would be a dead heat between the three countries."

If there is little or nothing between the countries, choice of venue has become crucial. With Wales and England tied to single courses, the Scots must reduce their list to one or two, and it seems certain that Gleneagles and Loch Lomond will be preferred candidates.

The situation is tricky for the proposers of the Scottish bid since they don’t want to be seen to favour one venue over another, but unless they wield the axe, the Ryder Cup organisers will do it for them.

Ryder Cup feast has too many courses

Mike Aitken, The Scotsman, 21 February 2001

Scotland has been advised to prune the number of venues hoping to stage the Ryder Cup in 2009. Action is expected to be taken by early April, when the Ryder Cup committee will look for the Scottish bid to be reduced to one or two candidates around the time the Masters unfolds in Augusta.

At present there are five contenders from north of the Border - Gleneagles, Loch Lomond, Turnberry, St Andrews and Carnoustie - compared to one apiece in England and Wales.

In order to establish more of a level playing field, the committee would like to see the Scottish executive focus its thoughts on fewer venues. Although no decisions have yet been made, it seems probable that the links courses so favoured by Tiger Woods will soon be eliminated from the reckoning.

When Ireland’s K Club won the right to stage the 2005 match, Ken Schofield, the executive director of the European Tour, indicated the chances of the Ryder Cup ever going back to a links were so slight as to be negligible.

Not since 1977, when the contest between Great Britain & Ireland and the US was staged at Royal Lytham, has one of Britain’s seaside courses hosted the match.

While St Andrews, Carnoustie and Turnberry have history on their side as well as the support of Woods - the world No1 told this newspaper last year he would love to experience the biennial matchplay tournament in the setting of a links - none of the aforementioned Open venues is regarded as ideal Ryder Cup material.

Carnoustie lacks the accommodation needed at a modern Ryder Cup, Turnberry has traffic and access problems and the Old Course is unsuited to large galleries watching a handful of head-to-head contests. Moreover, as celebrated Open sites, one would imagine the Royal and Ancient would be quite happy to see these great links continue to be more closely associated with their own championship than the world’s premier matchplay event.

This leaves Gleneagles and Loch Lomond - both home to European Tour events - as front runners for Scotland’s vote.

Last week’s announcements from Perthshire represented a significant move for Gleneagles in a year when the PGA has the greater say in selecting the winning venue.

News that the £500,000 WPGA International Match Play Championship will be held there in September on the Ladies’ European Tour means that no fewer than three PGA events - the Scottish PGA and the Scottish Championship are the others - can be seen at Gleneagles in 2001.

It was also disclosed on Friday that the Scottish region of the PGA plans to move into its new headquarters on the grounds of the Perthshire hotel in October. As for Loch Lomond, the course on the bonnie banks put on the best-ever staging of the Solheim Cup last season, and this summer welcomes back the Scottish Open.

In terms of a test of golf, Tom Weiskopf’s course is far superior to Nicklaus’ work in Auchterarder.

That said, there has always been a question mark against Loch Lomond in terms of access for an event on the scale of the Ryder Cup. While traffic plans have greatly improved matters at the annual Tour event, the Ryder Cup is on a different level in terms of crowd numbers.

Gleneagles, on the other hand, has no such problems and in many respects is the ideal Ryder Cup location. A five-star hotel, beautiful scenery and easy access by road from all parts of the country always singled out the venue as an obvious choice.

Delegations from the Ryder Cup committee plan to inspect Loch Lomond during the Scottish Open week from 12-15 July, while Gleneagles gets the once- over during the Scottish PGA from 23-26 August.

The need to reduce the number of Scottish contenders has put the Scottish bidders in an awkward situation, since they believed their role was to secure the match for the country and let the Ryder Cup committee choose the venue. It will be tricky at this stage for the Scottish executive to favour one venue over another, and some kind of joint initiative with the committee may be needed to reach a satisfactory solution.

No decision on the successful course and country will be made until September, but that didn’t stop Scotland using a function in the House of Lords on Monday evening to highlight its cause.

First Minister Henry McLeish told an illustrious gathering which included Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance, Ken Schofield, Ryder Cup director Richard Hills and Sandy Jones, the chief executive of the PGA, that Scotland was in for the long haul and would continue to promote its bid until September’s decision.

McLeish also confirmed the creation of the post of Scottish junior golf manager - first revealed here in December - in tandem with a junior golf development officer. "They will help to ensure that the opportunity to play the game is more widely available to everyone, thereby encouraging more youngsters to take up a game they can play for life," he said.

While the reception on behalf of the Scottish executive was hosted by Lord Gordon, chairman of the Scottish Tourist Board, it was interesting to note the presence of Lord Mac-farlane, honorary life president of United Distillers and Vintners, the company that makes Bell’s Whisky.

Over the coming months there’s a school of thought which thinks that Scotland’s bid would benefit from the presence of an experienced front man. Bearing in mind his connections with the Ryder Cup when Johnnie Walker were Europe’s sponsors and the Scottish Open’s successful sojourn at Gleneagles, might Lord Macfarlane be that leader?

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