Two years later, Wales pleased with Ryder Cup legacy

By Brandon TuckerSeptember 26, 2012, 3:19 pm

The 2010 Ryder Cup Matches will go down as an event that began with rainfall of biblical proportions and ended with a dramatic finish that came down to the final pairing. 

Certainly memorable for a variety of reasons, two years later, Wales officials are proclaiming the event a great success. The aim of Terry Matthews, the wealthy Welshman who was the driving force behind securing the event at his Celtic Manor Resort, was to put the largest, international sporting spotlight on Wales ever.

Thus far, the multi-pronged, all-hands-on-deck approach by the country since the announcement in 2001 appears to be paying off. Consider this: in 2002, Visit Wales says the country hosted 30,000 visiting golfers, which helped drive 7 million pounds into the economy. Following the 2010 Ryder Cup, that number soared to 200,000 golfers and 40 million pounds. That includes 76,000 American visitors to Wales in 2011. 

'We've gone from the challenges of making people aware [of Wales],' said Rob Holt, Director of Marketing for Visit Wales. 'To the point where we're challenging to keep people. It's a great new challenge to have.'

U.S.-based tour operator Perry Golf says they've seen a slight bump in Wales interest since the matches. Gordon Dalgleish, co-founder and president of the company, says that while it's rarely the first place golfers want to visit in the British Isles (that still goes to Scotland and Ireland) repeat visitors would be well served to make the visit.

'From a price point it's very attractive,' he said. 'It's in-line with the northwest of Ireland. Wales is a slightly different culture, has some great scenery and the quality of golf is every bit as good.'

Dalgleish said its popular for golf tours to include the Open Championship links on England's nearby Lancashire coast with north Wales. 

'The one challenge is they don't have the same caddie culture (as Scotland and Ireland),' said Dalgleish. 'For some Americans, that's a bit of a negative.'

Tourism aside, Wales used the Ryder Cup to springboard local interest in golf. 2 million pounds were invested in local, accessible golf opportunities from 2007-2010. This included 38 new, public-access golf facilities and Wales is happy to report they've all done well and helped increase the amount of golfers in the country, which bucks the trend of declining interest in many parts of the world and a struggling economy in Europe.

'One would have expected a couple of these facilities would be struggling,' said Holt. 'But they are all still up and running and getting more people into the game of golf.'

And while the Ryder Cup posed some logistical challenges due to the rain and Monday finish, officials were pleased with how the logistics were handled and are thirsty for more big events. Wales helped host the 2012 Olympic games in London by staging soccer matches in Cardiff. In 2014, the country will host its first major golf tournament, the 2014 Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl, which the R & A has agreed to bring to Porthcawl twice more before 2025.

Four undeniably unique golf courses in Wales

Pennard cows

Having visited Wales several times myself, the following courses are as unique as golf in the British Isles can be:

Pennard Golf Club: An extremely raw, ever-scenic links set high on a cliff top in southwest Wales. Horses, sheep and cattle roam the course freely and the fairways have nary a flat spot.

Royal Porthcawl Golf Club: For the touring golfer, it's as enjoyable of a course as any on the British Open rota; a historic and tremendous blend of true links playability and seaside scenery on every hole.

Nefyn & District Golf Club: An imperfect, and at times comically bizarre cliffside course design on one of the game's most jaw-dropping, peninsula settings high above the ocean.

Southerndown Golf Club: The sheep roam freely and abundantly on this lofty, rolling spot of countryside overlooking the southern coast.

Aberdovey, Bull Bay and Royal St. David's are also a lot of fun. 

Wales also has some very unique accommodations. One of the most interesting places I've ever stayed is Portmeirion Village, a small, storybook seaside village in north wales near Portmadog and close to Nefyn & District.

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

Getty Images

Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

Getty Images

Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

Getty Images

List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).