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Carnoustie makes pitch for 2009 Ryder Cup

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Carnoustie, one of the supreme tests of championship golf and a controversial venue for last year’s Open, has emerged as a surprise contender to stage the Ryder Cup match in 2009 should the event be awarded to Scotland.

Though Gleneagles, Loch Lomond and Turnberry are thought to be the three leading contenders north of the border to host the match against the Americans, both the Old Course in St Andrews and the publicly-owned course in Angus are also in the frame.

The news of Carnoustie’s candidacy is sure to set alarm bells ringing in America after most of the US players were left shell-shocked by the severity of the lay-out there last July.

High winds and deep rough sent scores soaring and many bruised egos were less than impressed by a seaside course regarded by aficionados as the most brutal on the Open rota.

David Duval and Davis Love III delivered some of the more strongly-worded criticisms from across the Atlantic with Love observing after Paul Lawrie’s triumph that the tournament got the winner which it deserved

Lawrie’s final score of 290, six-over par, was the highest winning total in an Open since Henry Cotton’s 294 at Muirfield in 1948.

Now, it has been confirmed that the most prestigious match-play event in world golf could also be held at Carnoustie. Sandy Jones, the chief executive of the Professional Golfers Association, the organisation which chooses the country and the venue for 2009, revealed yesterday that the links is a candidate. "Carnoustie is very much under consideration," said Jones. "We are looking at five venues in Scotland. Two of them are inland courses [at Loch Lomond and Gleneagles) while three are links – St Andrews, Turnberry and Carnoustie.

"I thought at last year’s Open, for example, that the infrastructure for the championship at Carnoustie was very impressive. Now the set-up of the course was something else. But that won’t be an issue in 2009. We can cut the golf course to suit our requirements.

"Personally, I don’t want to be critical of how the R&A set up the course. Maybe it didn’t turn out exactly the way they would have wanted. But that’s not for me to say."

The fact that 60 per cent of the venues under consideration in Scotland are links courses is also bound to surprise those at home and abroad who adhere to the view the Ryder Cup is permanently on sale to the highest bidder.

"This isn’t just about money," Jones insisted. "In fact, in many ways, it’s the least of all the issues involved. Everyone who is already in the frame recognises the need to meet the financial requirement and the funding of the various aspects.

"But it isn’t simply about the size of the cheque you write. We will work with each venue and ask them: can you provide this, can you meet that, can you commit to this? I also intend to be quite honest with people and, yes, at some point venues will drop out.

"I’vet been adamant from the start that the Ryder Cup is not for sale. Yet I keep reading in magazines claims that the match will never go to a links venue because all the big hotel chains will just put a big cheque on the table and the men in grey suits will accept it.

"Believe me, that’s not what it’s about. For example, you can’t say Carnoustie is part of a commercial chain because it happens to have a hotel."

Colin Montgomerie, who is campaigning to bring the Ryder Cup to Scotland in 2009 and is regarded as a likely captain of the European team that year, described the issue of playing the match on a links as secondary

"My job is to try and help Scotland as a country get the Ryder Cup, that’s the only thing which matters at the moment," commented Monty.

"If we cross that hurdle, then we’ll worry about what course, or what type of course, later."

Before any conclusion is reached about a venue, of course, a decision will need to be made first about which part of Britain gets the match.

The Scottish bid has been favourite ever since the Parliament’s executive indicated they were ready to match words of support with hard cash and deliver financial backing for the £10 million enterprise.

A prompt decision is needed because the investment required to bring the Ryder Cup north of the border for the first time since it was held at Muirfield in 1973 can only be justified if a long-term strategy for tourism is put in place to promote Scotland as the home of golf.

"We haven’t set a date in concrete yet when the decision will be taken, but our intention is to make up our minds by the end of the year or early in 2001 at the very latest," added Jones.

"The danger with an event which is still nine years away is that you can just let matters run and run. What I want to do is set a target for the end of the year so that we know which geographical area of the country will get the match. Will it be Scotland, the north-east of England or Wales ?

"Another factor is that two out the three candidates would have more than one possible venue. So if we can name the region at that stage, our ultimate aim nine months later will be to announce which course will host the 2009 match when we play the Americans at the Belfry next year.

"We’re still in the process of gathering all the facts we need to make our decision. Mike Gray [a senior PGA executive] is going round the different places compiling a document which separates the issues of country and venue."

He’s got appointments between now and June to meet everyone and visit every potential club venue."

Apart from the five Scottish sites, Gray will take in Slaley Hall and Wynyard Hall in the north-east of England and Celtic Manor in Wales before the PGA issue their verdict.

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