Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Gleneagles ourse that Jack built gets Nicklaus back on board

Jack Nicklaus is back on board at Gleneagles. The threat of the 18-time major winner removing his prized signature from the PGA Centenary Course has been lifted. In fact, he's going to make changes to it for the 2014 Ryder Cup.
Thankfully, the 18th is included on the list of work to be done by the Golden Bear because, played as it is at present, it would probably be the worst closing hole in Ryder Cup history.
"I'm delighted to have the opportunity to work with the team at Gleneagles once again," said Nicklaus in confirming that an embarrassing rift that threatened to mar the build-up to one of the biggest sporting events ever held in Scotland had been resolved.
"We are very proud of our design at Gleneagles but, due to technology, the game of golf has changed significantly since the course was completed and it is important that we continue to review the challenges it offers today's players – both amateur and professional.
"The work which we will undertake should help ensure that The PGA Centenary Course is an ideal venue for the Ryder Cup in 2014 for players and spectators alike."
According to Nicklaus, his original contract with Gleneagles contained a clause that stated changes couldn't be made to the course without consulting him. "I don't care if someone else makes those changes – just as long as I get consulted and then we can agree something," he said during the height of the row.
Apparently, he wasn't consulted when David McLay Kidd, whose father, Jimmy, used to be courses manager at Gleneagles, was hired to make changes, and Nicklaus claimed he'd initially been ignored until a threat to take his name off the course saw someone at the five-star resort see sense.
Nicklaus paid a visit last year "to try and mend fences" and it is good news for Gleneagles that he's been appeased because, frankly, you wouldn't want to be staging an event like the Ryder Cup over a course designed by the game's greatest player, yet having him disown it.
Now Nicklaus will "oversee some refinements" as part of a five-year development plan for the course. Work is scheduled to begin this winter, with the initial focus being on the seventh, tenth and 18th holes, with the intention, according to his paymasters, being to "modernise the holes for today's game and technology, as well as create some slight aesthetic changes and better flow for spectators".
The seventh is one of the holes McLay Kidd changed dramatically, building a new green that altered the angle of approach for the second shot. It came in for massive criticism the first year it was used for the Johnnie Walker Championship as players found it almost impossible to stop their shots on the putting surface.
At the moment, the par-3 tenth measures just over 200 yards from the back tees and it will be interesting to see what Nicklaus has in mind there, though, without doubt, his biggest challenge will be trying to come up with something better for the 18th.
Forget the fact that, in the Ryder Cup, there is no guarantee that matches will get that far. In every encounter between Europe and the US over the past 20 years, the closing hole has always had the potential for drama due to its design and the 18th at Celtic Manor, which has a risk and reward element, will continue that trend later this year. Personally, I'd love to have seen the Ryder Cup played over a composite course involving holes on both the PGA Centenary and the Kings but, unfortunately, that's not going to happen.
It's been rumoured that consideration had been given to changing the routing of the course so that either the current second or ninth holes became the 18th for the Ryder Cup and, to be honest, either wouldn't be a bad shout.
For now, though, it is encouraging that Nicklaus is going to be involved in the refinements that are about to be made.

Monty won't mind his two latest candidates

His own hiccup apart, it was an encouraging week on the Ryder Cup front for Colin Montgomerie, who won't need any reminding about how well both Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose performed on their debuts against the Americans two years ago.
McDowell, so impressive over the final two days in winning the Celtic Manor Wales Open, registered two-and-a-half points for Nick Faldo at Valhalla, beating Stewart Cink in the singles. Rose, equally impressive in winning the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, picked up three points in Kentucky, beating Phil Mickelson in his head-to-head match on the final day.
Neither McDowell nor Rose are in automatic positions at the moment for Montgomerie's team, but they're not far away now and the Englishman in particular deserves a huge pat on the back for his win – a third by a European on the PGA Tour this season.
The world No 6 at one time, Rose has been living in the shadow of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Luke Donald in recent years but, in a Ryder Cup context at least, has picked the perfect time to chalk up the biggest win of his career.



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