2008 Wales Open

Wednesday 28th May

To Celtic Manor Resort (CMR) and the official opening of the Twenty Ten Course prior to the Wales Open. Chairman of CMR Sir Terry Mathews, First Minister for Wales the Rt Hon Rhodri Morgan and European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady perform the opening functions although ominously their words are almost drowned out by the sound of torrential rain falling on the roof of the media centre. Later I take time to talk to Tournament Director Mike Stewart about the course set up. The course is playing long and Mike thinks we’ll move some of the tees forward which is fine by me. The course has been designed to have this kind of flexibility. The view from the players seems pretty encouraging from the limited play they’ve been able to have so far. After a month’s rainfall in the past four days, go to bed praying that the drainage system works!

Thursday 29th May

Fantastic – the rain has stopped. Less fantastic – we are delayed because of fog! The drainage has worked though and soon the players are out and I spend the morning watching how various holes play. Glad to see that many of them are going for the green on the par 5 18th with their second shot, despite the carry over water in front of the green. In the afternoon I spend some time with Russell Phillips of CMR, John Jermine, Chairman of Ryder Cup Wales and a film crew from BBC Wales. We walk several holes and discuss various aspects of the designs for the course, particularly the spectator viewing areas and the work that was carried out to protect and enhance natural habitats as well as the archaeological heritage of the site. Take the opportunity to speak to some of the players after they come off the golf course. All the players I managed to catch up with following their rounds are very positive about the golf course, despite the soft conditions. To bed with the sound of rain beating against the window again.

Friday 30th May

Thank goodness – it’s dry. I go down to the practice area to see how the spatial relationships work between the practice greens, the driving range and player and spectator movement. From there, the players have a very short walk to the 1st tee. Come the Ryder Cup most of the practice area will be used for the tented village. An additional practice ground is being constructed on the other side of the river to be connected by a bridge. Wander into the media centre to see some of the journalists. They’ve got a great location right next to the 18th green, as have many of the hospitality units on the other side of the fairway on the specially constructed platforms which create a natural amphitheatre. We watch as Danny Willetts, playing his first professional tournament, plays his second shot. He needs to make an eagle to make the cut and goes for the green. He only just makes the carry but the soft ground conditions just stop his ball from rolling all the way back into the water. His chip is well struck, climbs the steep slope, runs across the green and into the hole. Never looked like missing. Danny will be back for the weekend. I’m off home.