Five reasons why Wales is a great place for a Ryder Cup

By Erik PetersonSeptember 28, 2010, 2:45 am
twenty ten hole 15
The drivable par-4 15th hole at the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor Resort

NEWPORT, Wales – When it was announced that Celtic Manor Resort would be the stage for the 2010 Ryder Cup, some golf critics might have wondered why the selection committee said 'yes' to an untested golf resort in Wales and 'no thanks' to British Open staples Turnberry and Carnoustie. Besides, the Ryder Cup isn't used to moving around a lot. Since the first matches in 1927 only four different European countries – England, Ireland, Scotland and Spain – have played host to the Ryder Cup, so it would have made sense to send it to familiar territory yet again. After all, golf is a game where history is respected and traditions are honored.

But when we visited Celtic Manor this summer we learned that this enchanting country and superb golf resort are a refreshing deviation from Ryder Cup normalcy. From the golf to the food, we discovered five things that make Celtic Manor a very worthy host of one of the world's most important golf events.

1. Uniqueness of the Twenty Ten
Though the Ryder Cup was awarded to Celtic Manor in 2001, the Twenty Ten course didn’t open until 2007, so instead of tweaking the course to suit the Ryder Cup, the Twenty Ten was literally built to host it. And while golf fans might expect a Ryder Cup in Europe to be played on a pure links layout, the Twenty Ten is unique to any previous Ryder Cup venue because of its three distinct personalities:

'Links' (Nos. 1-4) – The first four holes are devoid of trees, but feature tight driving corridors, penalizing bunkers and sloping greens with run-off areas. No. 2 is a 600-plus-yard par 5 that could swing momentum early in the match.

'American' (Nos. 5-14) – Celtic Manor director of golf Jim McKenzie refers to this stretch as the “Floridian” section of the golf course because holes wander through the relatively flat Usk Valley with penalizing water hazards coming into play on several holes. This section is bookended by difficult par 4s which feature water off the tee and into the green. McKenzie bills No. 5 as the Twenty Ten’s most difficult hole and No. 14 as one of the best risk/reward opportunities.

'Alpine' (Nos. 15-18) – The final stretch of holes at the Twenty Ten bumps up against a hillside, creating long, flowing contours akin to Switzerland and Austria. No. 15 is a drivable par 4 that could end up being the most talked about hole at the Ryder Cup. A conservative iron off the tee makes for a straightforward par, but players needing to make a move will be enticed by an aggressive line over the trees to a blind landing area (More on this hole below). No. 18 is a long par 5 with a steep, closely-mown bank protecting the front of the green.

2. Variety of golf
Beyond the Twenty Ten there are two other courses at Celtic Manor and plenty more outside the resort – including famed Royal Porthcawl, site of the 1995 Walker Cup. The total package of courses has a wide variety.

Sitting in front of the Celtic Manor hotel is Roman Road, Robert Trent Jones’ only golf course in Wales. This hilly parkland layout hosted the European Tour Wales Open for three years while the Twenty Ten was under construction. It’s considered the No. 2 course at the resort.

The Montgomerie course is more of an old-fashioned layout with pot bunkers. It plays shorter and easier than Roman Road, making it a nice complement to the resort’s other two courses.

If you know a little about Welsh golf you’ve probably heard of Royal Porthcawl, a classic seaside links course built in 1895. It has long been considered one of the finest golf courses in Wales and has plenty of championship pedigree. In 1995 it hosted the Walker Cup – the amateur version of the Ryder Cup – in what was Tiger Woods’ only appearance in the event. It also has hosted six British Amateurs, most recently in 2002.

At 6,685 yards from the tips, Royal Porthcawl is short by today’s pro standards, but with deep pot bunkers and severe greens, it’s a stern test of classic links golf. Consider it a must-play during your golf trip to Wales. Although it’s private, Royal Porthcawl is accommodating to tourists who call in advance.

3. Built for excitement
From the drivable par-4 15th hole to the par-5 finisher that features a massive, closely-mown bank in front of the green, the Twenty Ten has plenty of potential for high drama down the stretch – and it’s all surrounded by hillsides and mounding conducive to spectator viewing.

McKenzie calls Nos. 14-18 the “Twenty Ten’s version of Amen Corner” because of its strategic value.

“Once you get to the 14th tee that’s the first place you have to make a decision based on whether you’re up or down, or what your partner just did,” McKenzie said.

For matches that go the distance, No. 18 won’t disappoint. A powerful tee shot leaves players with a decision to lay up or go for the water-protected green. The main issue here is that balls that even think about coming up short will likely catch the slope and roll backward into the water. It’s a treacherous shot whether you have a 3-wood in your hand, or a wedge.

Beyond the design of the inward holes, the views are also spectacular. Spectators can stand in one place and look across the valley at golf action on several holes.

“In addition to the golf, the aerial views of the surrounding countryside are great promotion of Celtic Manor and Wales,” said Celtic Manor CEO Dylan Matthews. “It’s a beautiful area that we live in.”

4. Welsh culture
No matter where you travel, one of the most intriguing aspects of an overseas golf trip is the opportunity to experience a culture different than your own. Wales is no exception.

Though it’s less than a two-hour drive west from London Heathrow – the world’s busiest airport – Celtic Manor is at the center of a unique Welsh culture that features its own array of beers – Brains is the national brand – delicious food and its own quirky language. Don’t worry though, English is spoken in most areas.

The food, particularly at the Celtic Manor Hotel, is abundant and altogether tastier than most British food. There are several great restaurants within the resort, all of which serve an eclectic variety of Welsh fare including fresh local fish and pretty much any meat you can imagine. Cheese is a part of every meal, whether it’s breakfast or the meal that comes after dessert (whatever that’s called). Some menu items are a bit strange if you’re unaccustomed to non-traditional fare (snails, anyone?) but then again, “When in Wales…”

As is the case all over the United Kingdom, a few golf terms are different here: You don’t rent golf clubs, you “hire” them. Motorized carts are “buggies” and instead of ordering a beer it’s a “pint” (no matter the size).

5. Plenty to do after your round
Though most resort amenities will be closed to the general public during the Ryder Cup, the surrounding area is littered with pubs serving Brains Black (the country’s version of Guinness) and Penderyn (a Welsh whisky). Downtown Newport is your best bet, but any hotel concierge would have recommendations for a hole-in-the-wall, if that’s your scene.

If you have a penchant for sporting clays, Treetops Sporting Ground is a 10-minute shuttle ride from the resort. Even if you don’t have any experience shooting a gun, a professionally guided tour will give you the chance to shoot a variety of targets.

Though Scotland and Ireland still reign in the minds of most traveling golfers, the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor is proof that Wales is a seriously legitimate golf destination.
Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

Getty Images

Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.