2014 Ryder Cup host Gleneagles readies for its moment in the sun (or rain)

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2012, 4:49 am

PERTHSHIRE, Scotland – Caird Miller, a former bank manager with a round face that seems permanently twisted into a welcoming smile, thrusts a pair of “Wellies” and thick hunting jacket in our direction with a snort, “You never know with the weather.”

In this slice of Scotland that’s not entirely true. To be precise, what you get is a steady diet of Mother Nature’s full repertoire, which is why Miller left nothing to chance as he marched his American visitors out of the posh Gleneagles Hotel to a trout lake for a fly fishing lesson. The weather did not disappoint.

It’s mid-July and the day alternates between a cold wind and light rain followed by bouts of warmth and sunshine, a familiar weather pattern perfectly suited for fly fishing if not the continued evolution of the hotel’s PGA Centenary Course.

The layout reopened in April after a Jack Nicklaus-led nip/tuck in preparation for the 2014 Ryder Cup. Of all the changes – which included 50,000 tons of displaced soil and 30,000 square meters of new turf – it was the installation of a state-of-art drainage system that promises to keep the focus on the ’14 matches, not the mud (see Cup, Ryder 2010 in Wales).

In this Miller had no doubt, either in the Centenary layout’s ability to withstand whatever weather may come or the home side’s chances. “It will be in good shape to give you a good stuffing,” he laughs without looking up from his fly.

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Whether the European team, which has not lost on home soil since 1993, is up to the challenge remains to be seen, but it seems the Centenary Course, a distinctly American-style parkland design, will be ready for what is sure to be an agronomic challenge.

In fact, the ’14 matches may become known as the SubAir Cup if the weather follows its traditional September script, which is to say wet. The SubAir drainage system was installed in all 18 greens and officials also followed the “Better Billy Bunker Method” that was developed at Augusta National Golf Club to ready the layout for whatever may come, rain or shine.

“Some of the technology we’re using really is at the cutting edge,” says Scott Fenwick, the hotel’s golf and estate manager. “We’re the first club in the U.K. to have a fully installed SubAir system on all 18 greens – which should help the greens withstand some of the vagaries of Scotland’s climate.”

In addition to preparing for whatever Mother Nature can dole out, Nicklaus reworked the original design to also test the world’s top 24 players, or your average 24-handicap for that matter, with significant changes to nearly every hole.

The most dramatic alterations occurred at the 18th hole, a par 5 played up a hill to a natural amphitheater. The championship tees were elevated and fairway lowered to give players a better view of the landing area and create more of a risk/reward opportunity.

“It was considered an American-style course when it was first built (1993), but now it’s fitting in better with the landscape,” said Billy Murray, the hotel’s golf marketing manager.

Perhaps, but the Centenary Course – dubbed the Monarchs when it first opened – has a lot of growing to do if it is going to catch up with the adjacent King’s and Queen’s layouts, James Braid-designed gems that opened in 1919.

While the Centenary is straightforward and all about shot-making, the King’s and Queen’s are quirky, littered with blind shots and seamlessly placed amid the rolling hills. Ascend the hill from the first tee on the King’s Course and step back in time when this enclave was a railway stopover to points north.

It is the dichotomy of Gleneagles, a fusion of old (ageless architecture and holiday staples like falconry and fly fishing) and new (a modern spa and an adventurous off-road course).

For Gleneagles, which has hosted numerous European Tour events including this year’s Johnnie Walker Championship, the ’14 Ryder Cup will serve as a reintroduction that has been years in the making. From the makeover of the Centenary Course to a complete overhaul of the iconic hotel the matches will be the metaphorical split in the road for the venerable hotel.

Like the Ryder Cup, Gleneagles has grown up, reinvented itself and, as much as one can, readied itself for the onslaught from what is expected to be record crowds and, yes, Mother Nature.

It was on the off-road course, which is the one slice of Gleneagles life that relishes rain and mud, where the Ryder Cup experience strangely comes full circle.

From his passenger seat instructor Duncan Eade smiles his approval as a modified Range Rover lurches its way up a rutted hill along the River Knaik: “The more you force it the harder it is to go along,” he figures, and the thought occurs that is the perfect metaphor, for Gleneagles and the 2014 Ryder Cup players.

More: A Spring fling through Scotland from Crail to Machrihanish

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.