The Hacker: I'm hiding in the bunker. For the first time, my score stays secret

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The Independent Online

Even in my sad, humiliation-strewn golfing career I have never capitulated to a course as shamefully as I did at Celtic Manor last week.

In defence of my puny efforts, I must point out that the 2010 Ryder Cup course wasn't built for the likes of me. It was specifically constructed to stage the world's greatest team matchplay event between Europe and the United States in October.

It is for giants, not pigmies, and to emphasise the fact they have just spent the winter making it much tougher.

Last week they invited the media to sample the course, which will have its first examination by the top professionals at the Wales Open in early June.

The pros will find the biggest differences are the bunkers and rough. I can't comment too much on the rough because I spent most of my time in the bunkers.

We can't say we weren't warned. Jim McKenzie, Celtic Manor's director of golf courses, told us before that most of them have been made deeper with larger faces; and there's plenty of them.

I'd had trouble getting out of pot bunkers at the Old Course the previous week, but these are monsters of another breed. In some of them it's like walking into quicksand and they are reluctant to allow the ball an easy exit, particularly to someone like me.

Not that I reached many, but Jim has also made the greens firmer and Europe's captain, Colin Montgomerie, has made several visits to help with the final tweaks to the layout.

The result is a spectacular and extremely challenging course. I am looking forward to seeing how the pros handle it in June and October.

Two of my playing partners handled it well enough. Mike Birch and Hefyn Thomas of European Tour Productions, whose handiwork includes much of the golf you see on Sky Sports, didn't seem at all overawed and each came in with 33 points, with Mike winning on the countback.

Newspaper representatives, concentrating on studying the layout rather than bothering with their own games, struggled to get to 20 points.

For the first time ever I am not revealing my score. If any old hacker cares to submit a request, signed by both his parents, I will send it secretly.

I shared a buggy with Mitchell Platts, the European Tour communication director, who scored 22 points but distinguished himself on the par-three third hole, which has a lake between tee and green.

He pulled his tee shot to the left bank of the lake, then had to walk through two hedges and 200 yards of rough land to reach it. His shot over the water plopped into the greenside bunker but he chipped in from there for a par. It should have been accompanied by a Duke of Edinburgh award.

It may save face if I report that I chipped in miraculously from 45 yards on the 18th at Royal Porthcawl two days earlier to gain me and my foursomes partner, Laurie Williams, a par.

We were playing in the Cardiff & County Club's spring meeting. It starts the previous day with a long and rousing lunch. Anyone not attending is docked two shots.

Laurie and I played with Peter Morgan and Glyn Clay and though we managed more points than they did, we were well short of the winners.

I'm coming to the conclusion that not having to contend with the effects of the lunch is worth a two-shot penalty.



p.corrigan@independent.co.uk

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