Layout means we're on course to win, says G-Mac
Graeme McDowell suspects he knows why Colin Montgomerie has decided not to exercise his right to tailor the Twenty Ten layout to Europe's advantage; and it has little, if anything, to do with the Scot's love of a fair fight. "The course suits us more anyway," says McDowell.
The Americans will take note of the Northern Irishman's warning and not just because he is their national champion, following his major breakthrough at Pebble Beach in June. The 31-year-old also happens to be the reigning Wales Open champion – and knows how to tacklethe 7,400-yard test better than any golfer on earth. His 64-63 finish provided overwhelming proof of that.
Montgomerie acknowledges what an asset he has in McDowell. "They can all go to Graeme for advice when it comes to the Twenty Ten," croons the captain. "Although, in Luke [Donald] and Edoardo [Molinari] we also have the players who finished third and fourth there this year."
At the very least the three team-mates who have yet to play the course competitively will no doubt go to McDowell and will be delighted to hear what he has to report, particularly as all 12 US players will only have last year's tied-for-43rd experience of their captain, Corey Pavin, to go on.
"A number of us obviously know our way round, so won't be under huge pressure in terms of learning the golf course," says McDowell. "There's a few little humps and hollows you've got to learn and that always helps. In fact, I think there's a lot that will play into our favour at Celtic Manor. I see it as a total driving course. You've got to hit very long and very straight off the tee as there's a lot of trouble around."
The general consensus is that Europe have by far the straighter drivers and Paul Azinger, US captain in 2008, warned that if the rough is thick, his country will be operating under a big disadvantage. He will not be pleased to hear that Jim McKenzie, the director of golf, has employed fertiliser to encourage uniform growth. If the weather is wet – as, alas, the long-term forecast is predicting – the lush grass will only accentuate the necessity for accuracy. This truly could be a case of boom it and bust.
Little wonder, therefore, the visitors are praying for the sun, although McDowell envisages bright skies for the home team either way. "I think the weather will be a major factor, whatever," he says. "Even if it stays dry it's still going to be pretty chilly and that will play into our hands."
He also contradicts all those who have been hailing the Twenty Ten as an American-style course. "Celtic Manor has a mix of everything," he says. "It's got a lot of big swales and run-off areas, where a linksy-style short game is required. It's less American-style than the K Club in Dublin [where Europe won in 2006]. I think it's a much better fit for us with big, rolling, links-style greens. I think our team will perform well around there."
The only shame for McDowell is that many matches are unlikely to reach the 18th. "It is a pity as it's a great risk-and-reward par five with water in front of the green and the decision to lay up or not," he said. "It'll be incredibly dramatic, just like the 18th at the Belfry. But let's be honest, you can't call it a key hole as not many games will get that far. The stretch from the 13th to the 15th (see graphic, right) will be key. This where the matches will be won and lost."
The Ryder Cup explained
Thursday: Opening ceremony (3.30pm).
Friday: Morning: Four fourballs (7.45am start). Afternoon: Four foursomes (1.15pm start).
Saturday: Morning: Four fourballs (7.45am start). Afternoon: Four foursomes (1.15pm start).
Sunday: 12 singles (11.35am start).
Closing ceremony (5.30pm).
Fourballs: Both players play their own ball, the lower score on each hole counting as the team score.
Foursomes: Each partner takes alternate shots until the hole is completed. One player tees off at the odd holes, the other on the evens.
28 available (1 point per match, half a point for tied matches). US need 14 points to retain the Cup, Europe need 14 and a half to regain the Cup.
For every fourball, foursomes and singles match, the captains submit line-ups independently. Their lists are then put together to decide who plays who.
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