WELSHMAN Jamie Donaldson is relishing the opportunity to tee it up on home soil as Celtic Manor hosts the European Tour for the next two weeks, starting with the 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 – who was born in Pontypridd, 25 miles from Newport’s Celtic Manor – was the hero of the 2014 Ryder Cup, holeing the winning putt at Gleneagles.
Donaldson said: “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,” Jamie said of the old Wentwood Hills Course which was redesigned to create the Twenty Ten course, which runs through the picturesque Usk valley.
Donaldson added: “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 this week.
Jamie, who briefly challenged the leaders at Hanbury Manor last weekend, added: “This is more of a ball-strikers golf course. 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.”
Ryder Cup heroes return to Newport
DONALDSON is one of a number of players, who have represented Europe in the biennial contest who will tee it up this week.
Ross Fisher and Edoardo Molinari, teammates in South Wales in 2010 are returning to the site of that famous victory.
Colin Montgomerie’s team’s victory was sealed by Graeme McDowell on the 16th hole in the anchor match. The event had run into a fourth day because of torrential rain.
Italian Molinari said: “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 10 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.”
Next week the Wales Open will be played on Celtic Manor’s Roman Road Course, which also hosted the European Tour event from 2005-7 while the old Wentwood Hills was transformed into the new Ryder Cup course.
Sullivan seeks more success after ending run
LAST week’s English Championship winner Andy Sullivan, who played in Darren Clarke’s team beaten at Hazeltine in 2016, will hope to consolidate his place at the summit of the UK Swing Order of Merit.
Sullivan, who won for the first time in nearly five years in Hertfordshire on Sunday, said: “It’s a long time waiting for that fourth win. 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,” Andy said about his fiancé. “She was over the moon and it was good to see a proper smile on her face.
“Before lockdown I felt I was playing really, really well. I just felt that my attitude wasn’t there. My head wasn’t in the space to win a golf tournament, or compete in a tournament.
“There was a lot of self-reflection over lockdown. I opened up to my team about a lot of hings personally and golf-wise.
“Talked through it and came out with a plan to get my way to being happy and smiley on the golf course – and being competitive.
“I didn’t think it would happen so quickly. To come out and be competitive at the British Masters and then win the third event. It’s amazing and reinforces what we’re doing as a team.”
The top 10 not already exempt after next week’s ISPS Handa Wales Open will earn a place at the US Open, at Winged Foot.
Those finishing inside the top 10 after the sixth and final event – the ISPS Handa UK Championship – will also earn a share of £250,000 to donate to charities of their choice.
•To follow live scoring in the first round of the Celtic Championship click here.