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Welshman Jamie Donaldson is looking forward to playing at home when the Celtic Classic gets underway at The Celtic Manor Resort on Thursday.
The venue, which will host the European Tour for the next two weeks, will see the Newport location start with Tournament No. 17 on the 2020 Road to Dubai, the €1,000,000 Celtic Classic.
Taking place on the Twenty Ten Course, where Europe won back The Ryder Cup in dramatic fashion ten years ago, the Celtic Classic is the fourth event of the six-tournament UK Swing.
The 44-year-old Pontypridd man, a hero of the 2014 Ryder Cup at The Celtic Manor, is one of a number of players who have represented Europe in the biennial contest who will tee up this week.
“I love coming back down here. It’s a great venue and the course is looking really good, and the sun is shining. I do love playing here, normally you get great crowds, which is a shame, given the current circumstances that won’t be happening. It’s a special place, beautiful setting and beautiful weather.
“I’ve been playing nicely. After the wrist operation things take time and I’ve been working hard to get that right. I’m fit as a fiddle. Sometimes things take longer than you think they would. I came back last year but never really felt 100 per cent. But now I feel fit, ready to go and look forward to playing next week. This is more of a ball-strikers golf course this week, it’ll help the longer hitter. It’s good that I can shoot low scores like that still. I’ve been playing well in practice, things are starting to come together.”
Ross Fisher and Edoardo Molinari, teammates at The 2010 Ryder Cup are returning to the site of that famous victory which was sealed by Graeme McDowell on the 16th hole in the anchor match.
In the build up to this week’s tournament, Molinari has spoken about The Celtic Manor as a place that holds happy memories for him:
“It’s a golf course that I love, I have great memories from the Ryder Cup and the Wales Open, I played here a couple of times. It brings back a lot of fantastic memories, playing with Francesco and the whole team, and managing to win that Cup by half a point. It was a fantastic week. The weather, so far, looks good, let’s see what the next few days bring us. It’s always a very enjoyable week here.
“I have two memories – the first tee with Francesco on the first day, which still gives me goosebumps ten years on. Then the last few holes in the singles against Rickie Fowler, I remember how busy it was, how many people were watching. I’ve never seen that many people be so loud on a golf course.”
Last week’s English Championship winner Andy Sullivan, who represented Europe in 2016, will hope to consolidate his place at the summit of the UK Swing Order of Merit, with the top ten not otherwise exempt after next week’s ISPS Handa Wales Open earning a place at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Those finishing inside the top ten after the sixth and final event – the ISPS Handa UK Championship – will also share £250,000 to donate to charities of their choice.
Sullivan, who claimed his first European Tour victory in 5 years last Sunday, enjoyed the opportunity the past number of days afforded him to celebrate his most recent tour success with family:
“It’s a long time waiting for that fourth win and I couldn’t be happier. Nice to do it in my own country and get back home with the family and celebrate. I’m still on cloud nine, it’s not quite sunk in yet. Florence was elated, bless her, it was my first win with her. She was over the moon and it was good to see a proper smile on her face.”
Irish interest in the Celtic Classic will include former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley who will tee off at 1.29pm on Thursday. First Irishman out will be Gavin Moynihan at 9.39am. Jonathan Caldwell is out just under an hour later, at 10.34am. Cormac Sharvin, who shot an excellent opening round at the English Championship last Thursday, will be the final Irish golfer to start his round, as he begins at 3.57pm.