High drama, finally, on Celtic Manor's 18th hole at the Ryder Cup
NEWPORT, WALES – Finally, at 9:45 local time Saturday morning, the first group of the 2010 Ryder Cup Matches made their way down the 18th fairway of the Twenty Ten course.
Since the course was redesigned for the Ryder Cup, the hope in Wales was for as many matches as possible to come down to the finisher, and the morning’s final two groups showed why. Not only is the design of the hole ripe for high drama as we witnessed today, it makes Valhalla’s 18th, a fantastic spectator-friendly finisher in its own right, look minor league by comparison.
One of the large hospitality structures along the closing stretch of holes, the Harlech Pavilion looms over the 18th hole, a bit like the 13th century Harlech Castle towers above Royal St. David’s Golf Club’s first tee in north Wales.
Celtic Manor’s Harlech construction is temporary, of course, and is where corporate hospitality for Citi and BMW among others are, and this is certainly a VIP-worthy vantage point, though the hillside also allows for thousands of riff-raff below. There is hardly any need for grand stands, just one set sits behind the green and to the right.
The fact the 18th was used at all this morning needed a bit of luck. Rory McIlroy had to nail a bomb of a putt on the 17th hole to extend the match, while Tiger Woods missed a very makable birdie on 17 to keep Ross Fisher and Ian Poulter alive for the finale. In 2008 at Valhalla, only one match in Sunday singles came down to the final hole, while 9 of the 16 matches the first two days came down to 18.
The first match to come down Twenty Ten’s 18th, McIlroy and Stewart Cink showed exactly how trecharous the 18th green can play. Both hit their approach shots into the water. Cink’s hit the front edge of the green and trickled back in, while McIlroy’s never had a chance. Both spun their 4th shots off the green before picking up.
When the Woods/Stricker vs. Poulter/Fisher match came to the 18th hole, it was the only match on the golf course and the crowds swarmed large. Woods rewarded them with one of his signature bullets from the fairway into the greenside gallery left of the green.
His partner, Steve Stricker showed where to hit a layup, as far down the right side as possible, yielding about as flat of a lie as there is in the fairway, and it produced the best shot thus far on the hole this weekend.
Large crowds squealed with delight as they watched the action along the hillside, settling for shots into the water instead of any birdies thus far. And while the 18th is as spectator-friendly as you’ll ever see in a Ryder Cup, it’s hard to believe many players will want their match to come down to a game of chance on the approach shot to this diabolical green.
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