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Loch Lomond tipped for 2009 Ryder Cup

Loch Lomond has emerged as the surprise front-runner to host the 2009 Ryder Cup match after months of speculation depicted the contest as a straight fight between Gleneagles and Celtic Manor in Wales.

Of all the courses bidding to put on the biennial contest between Europe and America - Turnberry, Carnoustie and Slaley Hall in England are the others - Loch Lomond is now regarded as favourite. Tom Weiskopf’s beautiful layout has always been second to none as a test of golf and the venue’s recent multi-million pound investment in the Scottish Open was an impressive act of faith.

Concerns about access and infrastructure meant Loch Lomond was often depicted as an outsider in a two-horse race.

Now, however, a convincing new traffic plan has been drawn up by the management of the club which would involve a park-and-ride scheme as well as greater use of the Glasgow to Balloch rail link.

There’s also a growing belief that Lyle Anderson, the American entrepreneur who owns Loch Lomond, can come through on the promises he makes unlike the management of Gleneagles, which is owned by Diageo, the drinks giant.

A look at the recent history of the Ryder Cup in Europe suggests this is a valuable asset.

In 1997, for example, the match went to Valderrama in Spain where Jimmy Patinho, a Bolivian tin millionaire, was in charge. And in 2005, when the contest is held in Ireland, it will be played over the K Club, the venue owned by businessman Michael Smurfit.

Anderson’s case for bringing the Ryder Cup to Scotland and Loch Lomond is believed to be the most persuasive.

A Ryder Cup insider told The Scotsman: "Lyle can deliver. He doesn’t have to go cap in hand to his bosses or to the Scottish executive to accomplish what he says he wants to do."

Scotland’s bid to host the Ryder Cup which saw a famous victory for Europe’s women over the USA in the Solheim Cup last autumn, has gone about its business in a quiet but efficient manner and, along with the other Scottish candidates, enjoys the support of the First Minister. Henry McLeish is anxious for Scotland to take its place on the world sporting stage and is prepared to back a bid for the 2008 European football championship. He ordered the Scottish executive to invest £24 million of public money in securing the Ryder Cup.

Mr McLeish knows that apart from prestige, Scotland will also benefit financially by securing the biggest event in sport outside of the Olympics and the World Cup.

Two years ago in Brookline, near Boston, the revenue from the Ryder Cup was estimated at £103 million - £30 million more than the organisers had expected. Four years ago, when the event was last in Europe at Valderrama, the economic benefit was £56.2 million.

The official line is that the Scottish economy would also be in profit to the tune of £67 million. The Irish expect to match Boston’s figure of £100 million in 2005. By 2009, this should be closer to £120 million.

If a decision was being made today then Loch Lomond would come out on top but no final verdict on 2009 is due until this year’s match at the Belfry in September. Much can happen over the next four months and it would be premature to suggest the race is over.

It remains to be seen if Gleneagles will respond by launching a fresh initiative of their own regarding the Scottish PGA Championship.



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