Jack Nicklaus and the Memorial event take center stage this week, but it's worth taking a peak across the Atlantic, as well — really more of a sneak peak. Luke Donald, Colin Montgomerie and the European Tour are at the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor Resort in south Wales for the Celtic Manor Wales Open. In early October, the Ryder Cup will take place at the same venue. If you're looking to hone in on the holes that will play pivotal roles in that event, tune in.
I recently returned from a round at the Twenty Ten. My lasting impression? Twenty Ten will be a perfectly fine Ryder Cup site. For any and all catcalls you've heard so far? Ignore them. Twenty Ten is a stronger test than the K Club, the 2006 site, more dramatic than Gleneagles' PGA Centenary course, venue for the 2014 match and its abundance of risk/reward opportunities dwarfs 2012 host Medinah #3.
This Frankenstein's Monster of a layout was created from half of the not-so-old Wentwood Hills course, a 1997 Robert Trent Jones II design and nine new holes (1-5, 14 and 16-18) crafted by Ross McMurray of European Golf Design, the architecture appendage of the European Tour. Admittedly the flattish, watery holes in the mid-section look like they were airlifted straight from south Florida. Additionally, the ballyhooed, drivable par-4 15th is vastly overrated. A shortcut through a notch in the trees means virtually all of the pros can drive it, so there's not much percentage in hewing to the dogleg, which turns into an awkward, and frankly poorly designed route for the average Joe. Moreover, the par-4 16th and par-3 17th are disappointingly bland, while the par-5 18th is another scorecard wrecker for the handicap player, thanks to a third shot that must be hit off a downhill lie to an elevated green fronted by a ridiculously sheer slope which deflects every shot into the water.
Well, boo hoo. Stop whining. As the course name indicates, this 7,493-yard, par-71 brute wasn't built to charm the pants off the 12-handicap man. It was constructed specifically to host the 2010 Ryder Cup. If the middle holes resemble the Everglades, so be it. Among them are some superior risk/reward thrillers, notably the 457-yard, par-4 5th; the 452-yard, par-4 6th; the 458-yard, par-4 12th and the especially clever and fiendish 413-yard, par-4 14th, with its two pay-me-now, pay-me-later options.
The 15th will provide eagle opportunities — always a treat at that stage of match play, while the 16th and 17th, if unmemorable, are at least sturdy tests, and are lined with massive hillsides to the left, affording tremendous spectator vantage points. All I can say about the 18th is that a lot can happen there. That's what you want in a Ryder Cup match. As for its stroke play measure — we shall see. I look forward to the weekend coverage.
(Photo: The 14th hole at Celtic Manor's Twenty Ten Course)