Change Creates First Controversy

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SUTTON COLDFIELD, England ' Some of the drama that has defined past Ryder Cup Matches at The Belfry may have been neutralized in a decision made Tuesday by European captain Sam Torrance.
 
Torrance informed U.S. captain Curtis Strange that the par-4 10th would be played exclusively from the back tees. Being captain of the home team, Torrance has the final say on such matters concerning the course.
 
This means that players may be less inclined to attack the green with their drives. The hole can measure anywhere from 255 to 310 yards, but when played from the back tees, several obstacles come into play.
 
Take a look at the par-4 10th hole
 
The hole naturally bends left to right. Trees guard the green on the right-hand side, while a water hazard protects it in the front and to the left.
 
When the tees are up, a right-handed player can fade his ball around the timber, over the water and onto the green ' with as little as a long iron, which was the case when the Benson & Hedges International was played at The Belfry in May. But with the tees back and pushed further to the right, and a metal wood needed, the trees present a major problem.
 
We have already pretty much decided ' going around and looking at groups ' that its better to have two putts and a birdie than one putt for par, said Strange in relation to minimizing the risk. He meant, of course, needing one putt for par after taking a drop from the pond in front.
 
Tiger Woods, for one, did go for the green off the tee Tuesday ' it measured 262 yards to the front ' reaching it with a 3-wood.
 
I can hit 3-wood there every day and get there. But the problem is I have to come through the trees. And theyve got 60-, 70-foot tall trees there, Woods said.
 
Sergio GarciaIn addition to the decision made at the 10th, Torrance said he has shortened the grass around the greens in order to give his team an advantage.
 
The Americans know how to handle maybe the thick rough around the greens better than some of the European players, said Sergio Garcia, who also reached the 10th green with a 3-wood Tuesday and said the decision to move back the tee would not effect his aggressive approach.
 
Despite the fact that 10 of the 12 European Ryder Cuppers got a course preview when they played in this years Benson & Hedges, its debatable as to whether the course offers a home-field advantage.
 
The Brabazon Course has been criticized as being too American. It lacks the brown, crusted fairways, pot bunkers and knee-high heather seen on many links-style courses. Instead, its an optical beauty with lush, tight fairways; thick rough; reasonable greens; trees to try and impede the blustery winds; and man-made bodies of water.
 
The set-up is tough, said Jesper Parnevik. For being a European-type golf course, I think it looks more like a U.S. Open-type golf course.
 
But despite the courses identity crisis, the 10th hole has always stood on its own merit.
 
In 1985, U.S. captain Lee Trevino forbade his team to go for the green off the tee. It may have been just coincidence, but the Americans then lost the Cup for the first time since 1957.
 
In 89, Seve Ballesteros eagled the hole twice in the same day. He made an 18-footer after Jose Maria Olazabal drove the green in the morning foursomes. He then did all the work himself in the afternoon four-balls.
 
Four years later, Ballesteros laid up with a 9-iron off the tee, while Davis Love III hit a 3-wood to five feet and made eagle. Love and Kite won the hole and their match.
 
Now, the hole may be reduced from the ultimate in risk-reward, as Love once described, to just a 7-iron and sand wedge.
 
Im really disappointed, said Paul Azinger, who played in the 1989 and 93 Matches at The Belfry. I mean, I think its a mistake, quite frankly, because I think that the 10th hole at The Belfry had a lot of history, and traditionally I would say 80 percent of the players could go for the green. Now, its maybe 20 percent.
 
Even Woods said the risk was now far greater than the reward, and that the hole was more intriguing in its old state.
 
Without a doubt. Its a lot more fun, Woods said. It was the perfect match-play hole because anything can happen. You can make 2 or you can make 6. And I think thats what made it so much fun to play. But thats not going to be the case this year.
 
Torrance disagrees, and thinks the hole will play the same as it did when the course first hosted a Ryder Cup, in 1985.
 
My idea was that in the old days when we first played the Ryder Cup here, it was probably, depending on the wind off the front tee, a good, hard 3-wood or sometimes an easy driver, Torrance said.
 
At the Benson & Hedges this year we played off the front tee and some guys were playing a 3-iron. Thats not a golf hole for a par-4. The technology has taken over. Weve reverted to the back tee, and its possible to knock it on from there.
 
The hole this week will be equivalent to the hole you had from 85 and onwards.
 
This is the fourth time The Belfry has catered to a Ryder Cup. Europe won for the first time in 28 years at this venue in 85. They then retained the Cup by halving the Matches with the Americans here in 89. The U.S. won in 93.
 
Full coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup Matches