Golf: Ryder Cup venue is defended

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The Independent Online
The billionaire owner of Valderrama, the Spanish club which stages the Ryder Cup in September, yesterday launched a scathing attack on critics of the venue.

Jaime Ortiz Patino, the Valderrama president, also accused a former Ryder Cup captain of claiming that Spain cannot cope with golf's most important team event.

"Let us lay to rest once and for all the unpleasant, nay ridiculous, myth started by a former Ryder Cup captain who clearly should know better," Patino said. "The premise - we've all heard it - Spain can't organise a raffle." Patino did not name the captain.

"How sad these nonsensical ideas should persist. Do we have to keep reminding everybody that the World Cup soccer and Expo '92 were enormously successful and that the Barcelona Olympics were the most successful Games ever held anywhere, before or since? No other country has hosted three such events in such a short time-span."

Patino disagreed with claims that the area will not be able to cope with 37,000 spectators and workers each day and that fans will not be able to see anything on the tree-lined course.

"There are difficult areas, but grandstand viewing will be provided for up to 11,000 spectators and for the first time at a golf tournament there will be three Jumbo screens enabling spectators to follow the action as it unfolds elsewhere.

"We are working with the government agencies concerned to ensure smooth access to and from Valderrama. Where possible, visitors will be encouraged to use the Ryder Cup bus transportation system which is being set up to bring people from their hotels to the course. For those who have to use cars a 4,000-space car park will be provided."

Fans will be staying over a wide area and many will be paying high prices for their accommodation. "Spain has a market economy and the government does not intervene or try to exert control over prices for hotels or other accommodations," Patino said.

"It is perfectly logical that hoteliers will be reluctant to tell their lifelong suppliers of clients, the tour operators, that for the week of the 22nd September they wish to withdraw their hotel from its annual obligation.

"For this reason, room allocations for the Ryder Cup have been hard to come by and the Ryder Cup Accommodation Bureau has contracted the QE2 and other ships." The floating village will be harboured near Gibraltar.

Patino dismissed criticism of the 17th hole, which Colin Montgomerie believes could turn the match into a lottery, a claim made by the European No 1 after his ball rolled off the green into a lake in the final round of the Volvo Masters in October.

"Ever since the radical change in 1993 we have introduced a series of modifications and improvements. Seve Ballesteros, who designed the hole, has been closely involved in this process, which continues today and will result in a further modified set-up for September.

"At the 1996 Volvo Masters the 17th yielded 62 birdies and four eagles. There were 51 bogeys, eight doubles and six others. The hole was played in par on 129 occasions. It was the ninth most difficult hole during the tournament."

Patino ended by stating stories of fake Ryder Cup tickets are already circulating. "When we transmitted this information to Ryder Cup Ltd they replied that the [real] tickets have not yet been printed.

"Since access to the Ryder Cup is strictly limited. Tickets should be purchased only from authorised sources."