Golf: Ireland ready for Ryder Cup name game

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The Independent Online
THE RACE to become the first Irish club to stage the Ryder Cup when the event visits the Emerald Isle in 2005 will hot up now that the American venue for 2003 has been announced.

Past protocol has dictated that venues are announced in sequence but the PGA of America has broken with tradition by naming their next three sites after next year's Ryder Cup at Brookline in Boston.

Oakland Hills, in Detroit, will host the 2003 match between the United States and Europe, followed by Valhalla, in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2007 and Medinah, in Chicago, in 2011. Famous for Ben Hogan's quote that he "brought this monster to its knees" when he won the US Open there in 1951, Oakland Hills last staged the US Open two years ago when Steve Jones beat Tom Lehman and Davis Love III by one stroke.

"Oakland Hills is one of the great sites in the United States," said Jim Awtrey, chief executive of the PGA of America. "It fits well with the Ryder Cup."

Valhalla, a Jack Nicklaus- designed course part-owned by the PGA of America, staged the 1996 USPGA Championship and will do so again in 2000 and 2004. Medinah will also host the USPGA next year and in 2006.

A shortlist of venues in Ireland for 2005 has been drawn up, including Portmarnock, a traditional links with sentimental appeal, and modern creations such as Mount Julliet, Druids Glen and the K Club.

Owned by Dr Michael Smurfit, head of the packaging and paper conglomerate, the K Club, in the heart of County Kildare, is the hot favourite and host of the European Open, which, with prize-money of pounds 1.25m, was the richest regular event on the European Tour this season.

"Discussions with possible venues will continue through the first quarter of 1999 with an announcement likely in the middle of next year," said a spokesman for the Ryder Cup Committee.

A new international secondary golf tour will tee off in 2000 with tournaments in Australia, southern Africa and Asia.

The Australasian PGA Tour executive director, Arthur San-derson, said the tour would be based on the secondary tours in Europe and the US - the Nike Tour and Challenge Tour - which act as a stepping stone to the full PGA tours.

He said eight tournaments would be staged in each of the continents, making a total of 24 tournaments with prize-money of about $95,000 (pounds 59,000) per tournament.

LEADING WORLD RANKINGS (US unless stated): 1 T Woods 12.05 points average; 2 M O'Meara 10.71; 3 D Duval 10.60; 4 D Love III 9.52; 5 E Els (SA) 9.51; 6 C Montgomerie (GB) 8.97; 7 N Price (Zim) 8.86; 8 L Westwood (GB) 8.66; 9 P Mickelson 8.14; 10 F Couples 8.10; 11 V Singh (Fij) 7.97; 12 J Furyk 6.97; 13 M Osaki (Jap) 6.93; 14 G Norman (Aus) 6.56; 15 S Elkington (Aus) 6.22; 16 J Leonard 6.15; 17 J Parnevik (Swe) 6.08; 18 M Calcavecchia 5.90; 19 S Hoch 5.64; 20 T Lehman 5.56.