Emotions high, opinions strong ahead of 2018 Ryder Cup venue unveiling

By Stuart Condie
Published on

The host venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup will be announced Tuesday, with many players and fans hoping European golf officials will honor Seve Ballesteros by sending the showpiece back to Spain.

The five-time major winner died earlier this month following a three-year struggle against the effects of a brain tumor. Ballesteros’ family is among those suggesting that Tres Cantos, north of Madrid, should win out over competing bids from France, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal.

“It would be the greatest tribute to him,” Baldomero Ballesteros said at his brother’s funeral last week. “I appeal to the sensitivity of the Ryder Cup Committee of the European Tour to agree the greatest honor that could be bestowed on Seve is to award the competition to Spain. I appeal on behalf of the family.”

Forever linked with the Ryder Cup after leading Europe to victory as player and captain, a weakened Ballesteros even made a rare public appearance in May 2010 to support Spain’s bid.

“It would have made my brother very happy, for it was one of his dreams,” Baldomero Ballesteros said.

But while none dispute that Ballesteros deserves honoring, some voices suggest that a tournament still seven years away is not the way to do it.

Former European Ryder Cup Captain Bernhard Langer pointed out that Spain already held the tournament in 1997, when Ballesteros led Europe to a single-point win at Valderamma.

“Absolutely unfair,” Langer said in an interview with Spain’s El Mundo newspaper. “It’s time the Ryder Cup went to Germany, France and Portugal. There’d be no big problem if it were to return to Spain again but it would be unfair.”

Like Ballesteros, Langer also won the Ryder Cup as captain and player.

Padraig Harrington, Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie are among those to suggest that a fitting tribute to Ballesteros would be for the European Tour to adopt a silhouette image of Ballesteros on its logo.

Germany is proposing Wittelsbacher Golf Club, an hour north of Munich; Portugal has the new Comporta Dunes project south of Lisbon on the Alentejo coast; and the Netherlands is offering The Dutch, 45 minutes from Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

But the best-known course under consideration is the Le Golf National near Paris, which has been the venue for all but two French Opens in the last 20 years. That experience could play in France’s favor, especially after Europe’s Ryder Cup committee inroduced strict criteria for the bidding nations.

Pascal Grizot, who heads the Ryder Cup commission at the French golf federation, said he received good feedback and that the French bid, which is backed by the state, is among the favorites.

He said France’s main rivals are Spain and Portugal but that his bid is suffering from the lack of French golfers ranked in the top 100. No French golfer won on the European Tour last year while Germany’s Martin Kaymer claimed four titles.

“Some other bidding countries have contributed more than France to the Ryder Cup history and the European Tour might be tempted to favor one of those countries,” Grizot told French sports daily L’Equipe. “But we are ahead of the Netherlands and Portugal from this point of view.”

But Portuguese officials insist their country’s recent request for a $110 billion bailout to avert national bankruptcy will not harm their chances.

“It’s normal that the circumstances we’re in at the moment may have some influence, but we believe we have a very strong and very attractive bid and that things will change by 2018,” said Miguel Franco de Sousa, secretary-general of the Portuguese Golf Federation.

The tournament would be played on a course to be built near Comporta, a village 37 miles south of Lisbon.

“None of the other bids have a course which is one kilometer from the Atlantic on one of Europe’s most beautiful coastlines,” Franco de Sousa said.

British bookmaker William Hill makes Spain the 8-11 favorite to host the tournament, with France 11-8 second favorite and Germany next at 5-1. The Netherlands and Portugal are outsiders at 20-1 and 25-1, respectively.

Recent European Ryder Cups were held in Ireland in 2006, and Wales in 2010. The 2014 event will be played at Gleneagles in Scotland.

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