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Tony Blair backing English Ryder Cup bid

England have made a dramatic late pounds 24million bid to wrestle the 2009 Ryder Cup from favourites Scotland or Wales.

And Prime Minister Tony Blair is backing the campaign to get the event played at Slaley Hall in Newcastle.

He said: "As a north-east MP I am well aware of the importance of sport to its people in the area." Mr Blair's intervention now makes the battle to stage this Ryder Cup one of the fiercest ever.

Wales believe it is their turn to host the event - at Newport's Celtic Manor - and have the likes of Ian Woosnam backing them.

Scotland, however, have a powerful lobby and half the Ryder Cup committee are Scots. But they have already staged one Ryder Cup in 1973 at Muirfield.

But Wales also have a strong case and BBC cricket commentator Tony Lewis said: "We feel the Ryder Cup in Wales would give this country its biggest boost for years."

England's bid was surprising. There had been talk for a long time they might make an offer but it was never due to threaten Scotland or Wales. But in a press conference yesterday, they fulfilled all the criteria to stage the event.

Former athlete Brendan Foster, who comes from the north-east, said: "This area stages some of the biggest sporting events in Britain. Golf will be a natural.''

Bids must be presented before midday today to the PGA. All countries will know by January if their one has been accepted.


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