The Goods on Valhalla


U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger was scheduled to visit Valhalla Golf Club Wednesday to make his final course set-up recommendations for the much-anticipated matches that will take place later this month at the private Louisville club.
What he found was a course that has received very little rain in the last month. As late as early August the combination of heat and dryness forced course officials to actually rope off certain stressed sections of greens and fringes.
But, head Valhalla professional Keith Reese said this week, Those areas have come along fine. The course looks great.
Reese, like many other Kentuckians, is excited about how long-hitting, native son J. B. Holmes will perform. Azinger made Holmes one of his four captains picks Tuesday and Reese confirmed that Holmes has played Valhalla on many occasions, most of them as a collegian at the University of Kentucky, which is located nearby in Lexington.
Reese talked in amazement about the driver, 7-iron Holmes hit on a cold, wet day into the par-4 16th after it had been lengthened to 510 yards.
Reese also said the biggest legend at Valhalla surrounds Holmes conquests of the 545-yard par-5 18th that plays to an elevated green.
The legend is, Reese said, is that J.B. has never hit more than a 9-iron into the green with his second shot.
Kenny Perry, another Kentuckian, said at last months PGA that he would love to partner with Holmes and be first off in the foursomes matches Friday morning, Sept. 19.
That, Reese said, would certainly send some electricity through the crowd.
After 17 consecutive years at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club near Chicago, the BMW Championship (formerly the Western Open) has moved this week to Bellerive Country Club near St. Louis.
But that hasnt stopped the good folks at Cog Hill from staying busy, even though the course has been closed since last September for a Rees Jones renovation.
GOLF CHANNEL has learned Cog Hill has Olympian aspirations.
Nothing wrong with the home field advantage.
And with that statement, Cog Hill owner Frank Jemsek officially threw his hat into the ring in a bid to land the Olympics for his golf course in 2016.
Jemsek is aware that there are more than a few hurdles to clear before his dream of bringing the entire golf world to his famed Chicago-area public course complex in eight years. But he says he has already reached out to officials heading up the Chicago bid for the Games in 2016.
First, the International Olympic Committee must award the 2016 Games to Chicago. (Experts say Madrid, Spain is an early favorite.) Second, the IOC must grant golfs application as a new sport. Currently there are seven sports applying for two available new spots in 2016.
Crunch time will come in October of 2009 when the IOC announces the host city and the new sport awardees at its meetings in Denmark.
Meanwhile, Jemsek will continue to campaign. He said he expects his chief competition to come from private Chicago-area clubs Medinah and Olympia Fields, both of which have hosted U.S. Opens in recent years.
The Tour pros know Cog Hill, Jemsek said. Plus its a course the public can play. Think of how many golfers would like be able to say they played the course where they had the Olympics.
Cog Hill No. 4 can also handle crowds. On Sunday of the final round in 1997 when Tiger Woods won, there were 50,000 people in attendance.
Meanwhile back at Valhalla, and more on just how partisan will those Kentucky crowds be:
PGA of America spokesman Julius Mason said people who applied for tickets to the Ryder Cup matches were notified last October whether they had made it through the lottery. All tickets, he said, were mailed by the end of last month.
Mason explained that the lottery gave all applicants an equal chance of getting an opportunity to buy tickets. But, he added, it has been the PGA of Americas experience that a higher percentage ticket applications come from fans which live closer to the venue.
In other words, yes, it will at times sound like an SEC football game.
I expect a real boisterous home advantage, said U.S. captain Paul Azinger.
European Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo remains under attack throughout much of Europe for leaving Irish stalwart Darren Clarke off his team and making Englishmen Ian Poulter and Paul Casey his captains picks.
But in a one sense Faldo has managed to take a certain amount of the pressure off of his players, who will arrive at Valhalla as heavy favorites.
If the Euros lose, the critics will be quick to heap the blame on Faldo. If the Euros win, many of those same critics will insist the players did it despite Faldo.
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