Saturday, October 02, 2010

Gleneagles needs earlier Ryder

Cup date in 2014

By Douglas Lowe
The idea of bringing the Ryder Cup to a river valley in Wales in October was looking like a damp squib yesterday in conditions more suitable for floating an ark than staging a showpiece golf tournament.
The players were actually sent out two by two for their brief introduction to the sub-aqua version of the royal and ancient game.
The chances of earthquakes, tornadoes, plagues and pestilence to follow the deluge are small, but fog is forecast for today and if that happens the problems that became serious yesterday could extend golf’s pride and joy into an unwanted extra day in a turn of events that has the potential for repercussions in Scotland.
Gleneagles is next in line when the Ryder Cup is hosted on this side of the Atlantic in 2014. Yesterday, general play was suspended on some courses at the Perthshire venue because of heavy rain, meaning there might have been the same trouble had the 2010 Ryder Cup gone to Scotland instead of Wales when the joint announcement was made a decade ago to initial dismay. Today we can thank our lucky stars.
What is happening at the Twenty Ten course at Celtic Manor now could equally be the case at the PGA Centenary course at Gleneagles four years hence when the Ryder Cup is proposed to be held actually a week later. The Welsh Tourist Board’s current embarrassment could easily become the discomfort of the Scottish Tourist Board.
The Welsh had been hoping the Ryder Cup would enhance the principality’s claim to be a globally recognised golfing destination. The pictures of sodden mayhem and abject misery beamed to an estimated 620 million homes in 185 countries yesterday will hardly have hordes rushing to book up holidays, no matter how unrepresentative.
With the nights fair drawing in, there is little room to manoeuvre at this time of year. All the leeway that was planned for this match was four hours on Sunday morning before the concluding singles session. That was insufficient to make up time and the format has had to be restructured as an emergency measure.
The Ryder Cup used to be the preserve of the Professional Golfers Association. Control has since been passed on this side of the Atlantic to the European Tour while the PGA of America remain custodians in the US, and not the PGA Tour, who run the FedEx Cup play-offs which were responsible for pushing back the date.
Yesterday, the PGA of America said the current sticking point, the PGA Tour’s televison contract, was subject to renegotiation in 2012 and thereafter the date of the 2014 Ryder Cup was up for discussion with a general desire to have it held earlier.
When every minute of daylight counts, as illustrated by the substantial alterations in format this year to try to catch up, holding the Ryder Cup in September can make a big difference. The absolute deadline for concluding play in this Ryder Cup, for example, is 6.43pm on Monday, the official time of sunset in Newport.

Last year at Valhalla the date was September 19 to 21 and at the K Club in Ireland, where rain came close to causing serious trouble, it was September 22 to 24. The European Tour have the power to make provision for the event to be staged in, say, August, but the PGA of America hardly have the clout to free such a date on the PGA Tour schedule and successful negotiation will be needed.

Whether a few weeks’ difference will make a big difference weather-wise is a moot point, but the earlier it is the better the chances.

Links such as Carnoustie or Turnberry, part of the original bidding process, would have been better able to cope with the deluge, but choosing the ideal course is hardly a priority against a powerful fiscal voice, in this case billionaire Celtic Manor resort owner Sir Terry Matthews, who had the ear of the then European Tour chief executive, Scot Ken Schofield.

Schofield made no secret of the fact that money talks when Ryder Cup venues are under discussion.
 “I believe it to be prudent to use the Ryder Cup to generate as much money as possible for the tour,” he said.
The price of going to the highest bidder could be regarded as yesterday’s troubles, which were actually forecast two years ago by Colin Montgomerie himself, before he was appointed Europe’s Ryder Cup captain. He said then: “There’s a river here and the temperature between rivers and land causes fog. There could be delays here. We have a problem obviously here and we just pray that Him upstairs is good to us.”

Him upstairs had a thrawn moment yesterday.



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