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Wales throws it's hat into 2009 Ryder Cup ring

Although the repercussions of the 1999 Ryder Cup are still being felt, thoughts today will be directed towards the 2009 match, to be held in Europe. Rhodri Morgan, First Secretary of the Welsh Assembly, will announce at lunchtime in Newport that he has written to the Professional Golfers' Association making a formal request for the Principality to be the host country in nine years' time.

Although at this stage bids are being made on behalf of countries rather than individual venues, it is an open secret that Celtic Manor, where the Welsh Open starts tomorrow, is the site for Wales's bid.

If successful, Celtic Manor would stage the biennial competition against the United States over the 7,400-yard, par-72 Wentwood Hills course. "This is a start for us," Terry Matthews, the owner of Celtic Manor, said. "Rhodri Morgan and I want to bring this event to Wales."

Wales is the second country to throw its hat into the ring. Last April, Rhona Brankin, the Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport in Scotland, initiated a bid by her nation. A decision as to the country in which the 2009 match will be held is expected later this year and the venue will be announced in 2001.

The Scotland bid is based on a partnership between business and politicians in an attempt to raise the £10 million it is estimated is needed to win the right to stage the event. Wales's commitment is likely to be at least the same. "Wales clearly want it," Matthews said. "They have indicated they will fund it in the appropriate manner. This is a huge opportunity for Wales. The 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama generated nearly £60 million."

Matthews confirmed yesterday that he will increase the prize-money for the Welsh Open next year from £750,000 to £1 million. He is in negotiations with the PGA European Tour to increase his commitment to this event from three to five years and hopes to be given a better week on the calendar in future than its present position, the week before the US Open.


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