Countdown to the Cup

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Jet-lagged as I might be, I felt the urge to fill you in on the preparations two weeks or so away from the 34th Ryder Cup Matches at the Belfry. Just home from a little four-day 'look-see' as we shot our upcoming Golf Central Ryder Cup Preview show, I figured I'd better get it on paper before my frazzled mind goes completely blank and I can't remember the Belfry from Birkdale!
 
First and foremost, you can expect a pristine venue, as the re-design handled by original co-architect Dave Thomas (a four-time Ryder Cup participant himself) is taking terrific shape. Some changes to the front nine were in order he said, hoping to add some dramatic swings before matches reach the decisive back-nine. Look out for the sixth and the eighth he says! Meanwhile, the 311 yard par-4 10th is every bit the signature hole its billed to be. Drivable, but with water looming, it will provide a good bit of drama I believe. The 18th has its share of difficulty off the tee as well. A dog-leg left over the
water, you can bite off as much as you like but if any wind comes a blowin'... look out. Bailing right will leave you with much more than you'd like with a match on the line.
 
Sam Torrance has his say-so in the course set up as David Sammels, Course Superintendent, told us. He's got the rough growing and his fingers crossed that the wind keeps blowing! While his workers are putting in overtime on the grounds, you'll also find a good number of men hoisting up bleachers, scoreboards and, yes, corporate skyboxes. This time around, the Ryder Cup will bag a hefty profit in the U.K., which will put it on a bit more level footing with the Cups staged in the United States.
 
There are three courses at The Belfry, which by the way is a full-fledged golf resort. The Barbazon is the one that will be in play come late September. It has hosted three prior Ryder Cup matches, but will get a little help from its neighboring PGA National Course, which will 'loan' its 18th hole to serve as Practice Range and venue for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
 
A couple of final thoughts. There is a good bit of confidence across the pond that the Europeans, while underdogs once again on paper, will walk away with the Cup for the sixth time in the last nine matches. Home course advantage is some of the reason. But also a very quiet sense of patriotism surrounding Captain Sam Torrance, who helped win Europe a Cup on this very course once upon a time. 'Play it Again Sam' signs are spread all over the Belfry!
 
And oh yes, can't go without saying that if you're heading over to watch, you'd better bring a SWEATER! The wind was up, the cloud cover was ever-present and there was a pleasant little chill in the air. Sounds like perfect European weather to me!

P.S. The United States leads the competition 24-7-2 all-time.
 
What are you Ryder Cup Predictions?
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