European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie must be pretty happy. For the past five tournaments on the European Tour schedule, the winners have all been members of his team, a stretch which dates back to Martin Kaymer at the PGA Championship and includes Peter Hanson, Edoardo Molinari, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Kaymer again last week in Holland. Furthermore, Monty managed to dodge an embarrassing bullet when Paul Casey faltered to Dustin Johnson at the BMW Championship on the PGA Tour. Casey was a glaring omission from Montgomerie’s wild-card selections. Add to this the silencing of some potentially embarrassing allegations surfacing in the British papers, and Monty is going full speed ahead to Celtic Manor.Surely it won’t be that easy, and I’m not buying the fact that Europe is such a huge favorite. On paper, yes the European team is stronger, but when the first tee shots are struck, scrunch-up that paper and throw it in the rubbish bin. All 24 of these players are tournament tested, and for that matter potential major winners on any given week. The things the Europeans have on their side: all of them have been to Celtic Manor at least once in their lives and most have experienced some good, old-fashioned, nasty British weather. I am not a fan of the matches being played so late in the year, and I’m a little disappointed in the choice of venues. The decision these days seems to rest with money and logistics rather than quality of golf course. I just hope the European Tour and the British PGA, the two organizers of the matches on European soil, don’t get caught with their pants down, so to speak, if the heavens open, the wind blows and the players are left trudging around a saturated golf course in wooly hats and drab waterproofs.
The home side may have an advantage, but it's not really doing much to attract you, the potential golfing tourist, to visit Wales. It is a beautiful country. Drive north from Celtic Manor into the Brecon Beacons, through some of the old mining valleys, and you’ll see breath-taking views coupled with interesting historical sights. There are quite a few more authentic golf courses to experience as well. Take Royal Porthcawl, Southerndown and the Rolls of Monmouth, to name a few. We still have a few weeks left before Ryder Cup week begins, and, at present, the sun is shining for captain Monty. In South Wales, at least the for the next week or so, many people across the pond will be keeping their toes and fingers crossed that it stays that way.
On his way to the Walker Cup in 1995, there was a very good possibility Tiger Woods drove down the M4 motorway right past the entrance to Celtic Manor. It was during that event that England’s Gary Wolstenholme pulled off one of the biggest moments in his career. Short- and straight-hitting Gary beat the man that would ultimately become the most famous sportsman in the world, 1-up, in the Saturday singles. It's easily forgotten Woods recovered the day day, winning 4 and 3.
Sneak ahead 15 years, and we find that both are now professionals. Wolstenholme joined the paid ranks late in life having put together one of the best amateur careers in the history of the game. Professional life hasn’t been as easy. A satellite tour win is his only highlight. But in August, life took a turn for the better. His 50th birthday signaled new opportunity, and two weeks ago in his European Senior Tour debut, Wolstenholme placed T-3 at the Travis Perkins Senior Masters. This finish catapulted him to 64th on the money list and gave him a chance of gaining full privileges for the 2011 season without having to go through the dreaded senior Q-School. Wolstenholme is back in action this week at the Casa Serena Open in the Czech Republic. He is seeking another top-10 finish to give him a spot in the Cannes tournament in October to creep into the magical top 30 on the money list and gain a full card for next season. The week of the Ryder Cup, the seniors have the week off, but chances are he’ll be watching Woods, thinking more about his future than one of the great moments of his past.