No team advantage at ideal Cup venue: McKenzie

Los Angeles: Connoisseurs of match play golf can expect a mouth-watering venue for next month`s Ryder Cup in Wales with no apparent advantage for either team, says the man in charge of preparing the hosting Twenty Ten course.

According to Jim McKenzie, director of golf at the Celtic Manor, the par-71 layout in the picturesque Usk valley is a teasing delight featuring at least seven "classic matchplay" holes where risk and reward have to be carefully balanced.

The Briton also predicts that long and straight driving will be at a premium for the Oct. 1-3 showdown between Europe and holders the United States without the `tricked-up` nature of recent Ryder Cup courses.

"We feel really excited about the venue as a whole," McKenzie told reporters on Wednesday of the first purpose-built Ryder Cup course.

"We have put together an extraordinary amount of options so you could go out and play a different golf course each of the three days, or in each of the five sessions. It`s unique from that point of view."

"We`ve got seven classic matchplay holes that can be played in a number of different ways, depending on whether it`s foursomes, fourballs, singles, and whether you find yourself a couple (of holes) up or a couple down."

In McKenzie`s view, the venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup effectively boils down to the final five holes in matchplay terms.

"You really don`t have a decision to make on the Twenty Ten golf course until you get to the 14th tee," the Scot said during a telephone interview.

"You will play the 14th in many different ways, relative to what has happened to you in the previous 13 holes. If you`re two or three up, you will play a completely different way than you will if you`re two or three down."

The par-four 14th gives players the option to drive over a lake to leave a nine-iron or wedge for the second shot or alternatively play safely down the left side of the water off the tee.

Next up is the 377-yard, par-four 15th, a sharp left-to-right dogleg which can be driveable over the trees although thick rough guards the back and right of the green with water lurking ominously to the left.

The closing hole, the downhill par-five 18th, has been shortened to 575 yards for the Ryder Cup to give players the chance to reach the green in two. However, the green is steeply sloped and protected by water at the front.

"Fourteen, 15 and 18, along with the par-four fifth, are the standout holes on the course in terms of multiple options," McKenzie said.

Asked whether the Twenty Ten course would favour the European team in any significant way, McKenzie replied: "There`s not really a home advantage feel to this layout. I don`t think there`s an American or European way of winning events. We win over there. They win over here."

"(European captain) Colin (Montgomerie) has made it very clear that he`s not going to get involved in `tricking up` the course. He believes the team that turns up best on the day and plays well will win."

While the greens at Celtic Manor will be slower than those at Valhalla in 2008 when the US won the trophy for the first time in nine years, McKenzie pinpointed driving accuracy as the biggest concern for both teams at this year`s edition.

"There are a lot of very subtle borrows on the greens here but the Americans will come over prepared for the type of golf course we`ve got and I`m sure they will come over with a couple of putters -- a light and a heavy one probably," he said.

"I think the premium at this year`s Ryder Cup will be on keeping it (the ball) on the short stuff off the tee."

Bureau Report