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Montgomerie backs Turnberry Ryder Cup bid

Colin Montgomerie yesterday threw his support behind Turnberry as the Scottish venue best suited to hosting the 2009 Ryder Cup. He said the Ayrshire hotel enjoyed the international financial backing needed to make a credible bid as well as enjoying the support of the players, most of whom wish to see the match return to a links.

Last year Tiger Woods told The Scotsman that he, for one, felt the biennial contest needed to go back to its roots and be held over a links for the first time since 1977 at Lytham. More recently, Sam Torrance, Europe’s captain at the Belfry in September, has also spoken of his support for Turnberry.

While Monty makes no secret of his business links with Turnberry, Scotland’s leading golfer has always stressed the fact he believes the most important aspect of Scotland’s bid is that the match returns to the home of golf rather than promoting the claims of any single venue.

Now, however, Turnberry is poised to make a late break on the last lap of the race for 2009. Up until now, Celtic Manor in Wales and Gleneagles in Scotland were regarded as the front-runners. The European Tour were known to favour the Welsh bid while the PGA backed the Perthshire resort.

It may be that both of those choices come to be seen as extreme positions - leaving the door open for either Turnberry or Loch Lomond to offer a case as a compromise choice.

Monty, certainly, was at his most forthright, dismissing the "so-called" Welsh bid and backing the links where his own golf academy is situated.

"Supporting Scotland’s bid for the Ryder Cup is a distraction I welcome and feel we’ve got three really strong contenders in Turnberry, Loch Lomond and Gleneagles [Carnoustie is the fourth Scottish challenger] against the so-called Welsh bid," he said at the launch of a new driving range in Glasgow.

"It’s very difficult to give somewhere that doesn’t have a course much [credence]. I know they’ve got planning permission in Wales, but right now they’ve no course. Scotland, on the other hand, has wonderful courses and I think Turnberry is especially suited.

"They’ve had Open championships there and know what they’re doing. I think Turnberry would be the No1 choice of the players because we’d like to play on a links.

"It’s a shame, in a way, we’re going to Ireland in 2005 and not playing on a links, but an American-style course at the K Club. Of course the Belfry is a little bit that way as well. So it would be great to go back to a links and the obvious available one is Turnberry. That would be the favourite.

"When you talk to other players about courses in Scotland they immediately think about links golf. Although Loch Lomond and Gleneagles offer fine courses - after all they were designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jack Nicklaus - it would be a boost to go back to a traditional Scottish links which has hosted big events in the past."

The main criticism of Turnberry is that unlike Loch Lomond, Gleneagles, Celtic Manor and Slaley Hall in England, the links has not put any money into tournaments. It’s understood, though, that Starwood, the owners of the hotel, are considering putting together a multi-million pound package at the 11th hour.

My information is that after losing out on the 2004 Open because of transport concerns, Turnberry started eyeing the Ryder Cup more eagerly. Although there are no Tour events planned there in the immediate future, it’s possible the links could host a World Championship event as well as the British Seniors Open, once the existing contract expires.

"I know Loch Lomond, Gleneagles and Celtic Manor all have big money behind them, but no bigger than the people who own Turnberry," added Montgomerie.

"The fact is the Ryder Cup is well overdue coming back here."



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