Ryder Cup not a major event, says Nicklaus

Four months to go and the Americans are already getting in their excuses. That is how Jack Nicklaus's put-down of the significance of the Ryder Cup was being seen here yesterday as the Wales Open field struggled to finish off their preparations for this morning's first round.

It was perhaps apt that this was the venue for the European Tour to digest Nicklaus's opinions on the biennial match that America have just happened to have lost in five of the last six stagings. In a little over two years, Celtic Manor will host the Ryder Cup and today the Principality's grandest golf resort will celebrate the official opening of the Twenty Ten course. Weather permitting, that is.

Yesterday's pro-am fell victim to the traditional downpour meaning many will tee it up without any prior experience of this highly rated layout. That is rotten luck for the organisers who have assembled a fine cast-list including Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Colin Montgomerie.

Nicklaus, the 18-time major champion was speaking at The Memorial, the PGA Tour event he hosts in Ohio, when he took his pot-shot at the match that will have its 85th anniversary in Kentucky in September.

"You give me Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk who are basically No. 1, 2, 3 in the world on our team, and they just finished playing all the majors, and you say, 'OK guys, now we're going to do something important. We're going to play the Ryder Cup' – come on, give me a break," said Nicklaus, who has twice been captain. "It's a great event. Is it different? Absolutely it's different. Is it exciting? Absolutely it's exciting. But it's a goodwill event. It's for bragging rights.

"I think the US Open or the Masters or British Open, offer a little bit more than bragging rights. You go back and tell me who won the Ryder Cup 10 years ago and who was the star player. You couldn't, not even close.

"I'm not trying to put down the event. It's great fun and I think it's great entertainment. But it's not, you know... the Masters or the PGA Championship."

Nicklaus's words will no doubt be welcomed with a resounding "hear, hear" in the States, particularly from Tiger Woods. The world No 1 has long claimed, albeit with increased diplomacy, that way too much is made of the Ryder Cup.

He and his Starred and Striped team-mates have been known to roll their eyes when Sergio Garcia and Co have danced on greens and embarked on all-night celebrations for winning what they regard as little more than an exhibition game. "Show me your majors," goes their reasoning. Looking at Europe's current paltry major haul, they – and Nicklaus – may just have a point.

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