The European Tour travels to Celtic Manor this week for the Saab Wales Open. Graeme McDowell defends his title at the venue where he enjoyed Ryder Cup glory last October.
Last season Golf Monthly columnist McDowell came into this event needing some impressive results through the summer to secure a spot in Colin Montgomerie’s team for the Ryder Cup. He fired two superb rounds of 64 and 63 over the weekend to take the title by three shots from home favourite Rhys Davies. McDowell used the win as a springboard to go on and take the US Open title at Pebble Beach, thereby ensuring his involvement in the famous biennial transatlantic match later in the year.
In that event, back at Celtic Manor, McDowell was instrumental in Europe’s narrow victory. His clutch win over Hunter Mahan in the final singles match proved to be the difference between the two sides.
McDowell’s captain at Celtic Manor, Colin Montgomerie is also on the start sheet this week and, after a solid showing in the BMW PGA Championship, the big Scot will be hopeful of a good result here.
Other Ryder Cup heroes, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Ross Fisher and Peter Hanson will also tee it up this week.
The Wales Open was first contested at Celtic Manor in 2000 and since then there have been some notable winners including Paul McGinley, Paul Lawrie, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Robert Karlsson.
Venue: Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, Wales
Date: Jun 2-5
Course stats: par 71, 7,378 yards
Purse: £1,800,000 Winner: £300,000
Defending Champion: Graeme McDowell (-15)
Thursday 2 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 10.30am
Friday 3 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 10.30am
Saturday 4 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 1pm
Sunday 5 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 12pm
Anders Hansen – The Dane has performed solidly so far this year and already has two top-three finishes to his name on the 2011 European Tour. He’s overdue a victory on the circuit.
Rhys Davies – He’s coming back into some reasonable form as evidenced by a good showing at Wentworth last week. He fired a superb closing round of 62 in this event last year, one that looked for a time like a possible 59. He’ll feed of those memories and the support of the home crowd.
Paul Lawrie – Although he missed the cut last week, he’s a former winner of this event and has posted three top-five finishes in his last five European Tour starts, including a win in the Open de Andalucia.
Key hole: 15th. This is a brilliant risk and reward par-4 that measures 377 yards on the card but is driveable if the players opt to take the line straight from tee to green. The strategic way to play the hole is to lay up to the corner of the dog-leg and pitch on but, by carrying the ball all the way to the putting surface in one, eagle chances can be the result.
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