All eyes will be on The Twenty Ten Course this week as Colin Montgomerie and Corey Pavin, the two men charged with the responsibility of leading Europe and the United States in The 2010 Ryder Cup, tee up in The Celtic Manor Wales Open.
Captains Montgomerie and Pavin will not only be paying particular attention to any pointers they can glean from the course designed to host The 2010 Ryder Cup at The Celtic Manor Resort - and how they might attain even the smallest strategic advantage - but also on how their potential Team members handle the layout which is in play for the second time this year.
However, first on the agenda is to take care of their own games over The Twenty Ten Course. After winning titles in England, Ireland and his native Scotland over the years, victory in Wales would complete a domestic set for Montgomerie.
Pavin, meanwhile, arrives in sunny Wales buoyed by a strong finish at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. The US skipper fired a closing 65 for a total of 271 and tied 18th position.
Miguel Angel Jiménez, a member of Europe’s Ryder Cup side from Valhalla, will have designs on a return visit to The Celtic Manor Resort when Montgomerie’s charges attempt to wrest the trophy back from Pavin’s US line-up. In order to achieve that, victory in this week’s Celtic Manor Wales Open would be an ideal starting point.
The Spaniard has been a popular competitor in Wales since winning on his debut in 2005 over the Roman Road course, and joins other former Celtic Manor Wales Open champions Simon Khan, Paul Lawrie and Paul McGinley, along with the defending champion Scott Strange of Australia.
Strange produced a superb wire-to-wire performance to win his maiden European Tour title 12 months ago, and he subsequently won a second European Tour title with his success in the Volvo China Open in April.
So far, the Australian is the only player to have tasted victory on The Twenty Ten Course but there are numerous Welshmen waiting in the wings, anxious to take Strange’s crown and finally collect a home victory in the tournament.
Stephen Dodd will lead the home challenge on the back of two impressive weeks. Fourth place in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club was followed by tied fifth in last week’s European Open at The London Club, where he manoeuvred himself into a strong position through 16 holes only to suffer the frustration of two late bogeys.
“It's slowly improving,” said Dodd after his final round in Kent. “I am still not happy with the way I'm hitting it, but the short game is pretty good, and that's key I think. All in all, it's been an encouraging week again, so I feel like I'm going in the right direction.”
As to whether playing on home turf will give him an edge, Dodd added: “It's not going to be much of an advantage, I've not been to the course since last year, so I don't know it any better than anybody else, but at the same time, it's nice to get some home support which sometimes is worth a shot or two.”
Joining Dodd under the Welsh flag are Sion Bebb, Rhys Davies, Jamie Donaldson, two time European Tour Champion Bradley Dredge, Garry Houston, Stuart Manley, Ryder Cup player Phillip Price, Craig Smith and Kyron Sullivan.
Montgomerie and Pavin are, however, likely to be the players under the spotlight. Montgomerie, who was selected as European Captain in January, will be playing in his seventh Celtic Manor Wales Open and competing for the second time on The Twenty Ten Course where last year he opened with rounds of 69 and 68.
For Pavin, who took over the reins from Paul Azinger last December, it will be his first visit to The Celtic Manor Resort and his first look at a course where his US Team will tackle Montgomerie’s European Team from October 1-3, 2010. Not surprisingly, the 49 year old Californian admitted he was very much looking forward to the prospect.
“When I was appointed United States Ryder Cup Captain I spoke of what a great thrill it was for me to have this wonderful honour,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is the most dynamic and intense experience a competitive golfer will ever have and for me personally, the dream will begin to become reality with my trip to Wales in June.
“I have heard a lot of great things about The Twenty Ten Course and I cannot wait to see how it is set up for The Celtic Manor Wales Open as well as imagining how it may be set up for The Ryder Cup itself in 18 months time.
“I started my professional golf career in Europe and have extremely fond memories of those days and the wonderful people that I encountered along the way. I look forward to bringing my wife, Lisa, to Wales and connecting with the people.
“As Captain of the US Team, I am determined to lead our Team with passion and determination, but in the spirit of great sportsmanship and camaraderie. In these tough global economic times, particularly, we need to keep this wonderful event in perspective. Don’t be surprised to find us hanging out in pubs the week of the Wales Open enjoying friendly banter about the possibilities of 2010.
“Colin and I have met each other on three occasions in The Ryder Cup and it will be great to see him again. We are both passionate guys with a genuine love for the game and it will be fantastic to play in the same tournament together on the same course where we will both have the honour of being Captains in what I believe is the greatest event in golf.”
Montgomerie admitted he was once again looking forward to teeing it up in The Celtic Manor Wales Open and welcomed the news that his opposite number would be alongside him in the field.
“It is tremendous news that Corey is playing and myself and Gaynor look forward very much to welcoming him and Lisa to Wales,” said the European Captain. “Throughout his career, Corey has shown himself as a great competitor and I am sure, like me, he will be striving to win The Celtic Manor Wales Open as well as looking ahead to his own plans for next year’s Ryder Cup.
“I always enjoy playing in The Celtic Manor Wales Open. It has additional significance as we are playing on the course where next year’s Ryder Cup will unfold. It is set up to challenge the best and, being a course with a whole host of tempting options and punishing hazards, there will be much for Corey and I to examine.”
Pavin’s visit to the Principality will represent the 1995 US Open Champion’s first appearance in a European Tour event outside the Major Championships since he finished in a tie for seventh place in the Scandinavian Masters at Arlandastad Golf in Stockholm in August 2007.
On his home US PGA Tour, Pavin has triumphed 15 times, while his international roll of honour includes victory in the 1993 World Match Play Championship at Wentworth Club in England – where he beat Nick Faldo on the final green of an enthralling final – and success by three shots in the 1983 German Open at the Golf und Landclub in Cologne, beating Seve Ballesteros and Tony Johnstone into second place. He has also recorded tournament victories in Japan, Korea, New Zealand and South Africa.