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Lanny's Morning Line The author, who should know, has an early tip for you: To see where the Cup is won or lost, watch how the players handle five critical holes

Sept. 23, 2002
Sept. 23, 2002

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Sept. 23, 2002

Lanny's Morning Line The author, who should know, has an early tip for you: To see where the Cup is won or lost, watch how the players handle five critical holes

There's no trash-talking in golf, even during the Ryder Cup. On
the 1st tee I always said to my opponents, "Nice to see you.
Play well," but words don't mean much in this event. In match
play, golfers make a statement with every shot. Some shots,
though, make a bigger statement than others.

This is an article from the Sept. 23, 2002 issue

The U.S. team has made steady progress at the Belfry, losing the
first match held there, in 1985, then tying the second, in '89,
and winning the third, in '93. I think the place is perfect for
the match because the Brabazon course (the Belfry has two other
18s, the Derby and the PGA National courses) is straightforward
with no blind shots or hidden obstacles and so flat that you feel
as if you're playing down a runway. As such, the course lends
itself to long, dramatic matches.

On five holes in particular--the 1st, 3rd, 10th, 15th and 18th--a
player will have to overcome his nerves and hit an exquisite shot
under pressure or make a tricky strategic decision that could
lead to victory or defeat. The golfer who can pull off these
crucial shots doesn't need to say a word: His play will have made
a winning statement.

HOW LANNY SEES THE BELFRY
Here's a close-up look at the five holes on which the players
must make a statement, and the skinny on the entire course
Hole

HOLE 1

Top That!
Attack--and attack early--is my match-play strategy. The best
way to do that is to stripe a drive down the middle off the 1st
tee. That isn't easy at the Belfry. The drive is awkward because
the tee box sets up toward the right rough, and there are only
20 yards between the fairway and a grove of trees. The Americans
have a huge advantage here, though, because as the visitors they
have the honor. A good tee shot shows an opponent that you're
ready to play and puts him under the gun to gut one too.

HOLE 3

Green Light, Red Light
To go or not to go? If you hit a good drive, do you try to bust
your second shot onto the green or do you protect against
dumping the ball into the lake by laying up? In singles you take
the green light (blue line) if--and only if--you can definitely
carry the water. Otherwise you play it the way David Toms played
18 at the 2001 PGA (red lines). In four-ball the 3rd is a
pedal-to-the-metal hole because everybody goes for it. The
toughest situation is in foursomes because the guy hitting the
second shot won't have taken a full swing since either the tee
shot on the previous hole or, if he laid up off the 2nd tee,
since warming up for the round. Now, though, he has to go full
bore and rip a long iron or a fairway wood over water.

HOLE 10

Short and Sweet
Players start thinking about this tee shot the night before and
check out the hole location early on the day of a match. The big
decision is whether to shove it down your opponent's throat by
going for the green or to lay up and let him make a mistake. In
1985 Ray Floyd and I were teammates for three matches, and we
always laid up, feeling that with a flip-wedge approach we had a
great chance to make a birdie--and we did every time. In an '89
singles match against Nick Faldo my caddie, Tony Navarro,
suggested that I lay up, but I said, "No way. Let's stick it to
him." I launched a three-wood to six feet. Nick dumped his drive
in the water, and I won the match one up. In 1999 the green was
extended five yards, which will entice more guys to go for broke.

HOLE 15

Watch The Birdies
This hole is the beginning of crunch time, a closing stretch of
three benign birdie holes and one monster, the 18th. It's
imperative to split the fairway of this reachable par-5 and give
yourself a go at the narrow, three-tiered green. Beware of the
beaches! Two bunkers hug the fairway 270 (right side) and 240
(left) yards out. There's also a cross-bunker 50 yards from the
green that'll force the guys who lay up to decide whether to
play over, right of or short of the sand. You'd better be
aggressive from here on, or you'll be walking to the clubhouse
with your head down, because nobody's going to win one of the
next three holes with a par.

HOLE 18

No Guts, No Glory
As on the par-3 17th at Kiawah Island, you have no choice here:
Suck it up, make a good swing and show why you're playing in the
Ryder Cup. There's no place to bail out off the tee. A sprawling
lake runs down the entire left side of this hole, and the longer
you drive it, the smaller the landing area gets. Also, deep rough
and a fairway bunker are on the right. To cut off distance while
keeping your ball in the short grass, you must challenge the
water by driving as far left as possible. If you miss the
fairway, you might have to lay up because a 110-yard-long portion
of the water hazard sits between the end of the fairway and the
green. If the U.S. wants to win, it had better learn how to make
a more convincing statement at 18. In the three previous Ryder
Cups at the Belfry, the Americans are only 12-17-8 in matches
that reached the final hole.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY DARREN CARROLLELEVEN COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: ILLUSTRATIONS BY ISTVAN BANYAICOLOR ILLUSTRATION: GIACOMO MARCHESI (COURSE ROUTING)

No American has been on more Ryder Cup teams than Lanny Wadkins,
who played on eight and captained a ninth. Wadkins won 20
matches, a total surpassed by only one American, Arnold Palmer,
who prevailed in 22. Wadkins, 52, is also one of two U.S. golfers
(Tom Kite is the other) to play in all the previous Ryder Cups at
the Belfry.

HOLE PAR YARDS
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

1 4 411
Short but no gimme, because lightbulb-shaped green slopes
away and is guarded by bunkers on right and left

2 4 379
Be aggressive and birdie here. Thirty-five yards added since '93
but still a long iron and wedge for big hitters

3 5 538
Drive must be in fairway on this shortish hole for chance to
make aggressive play at green with second shot

4 4 442
Hitting fairway a must. Those who miss must lay up to avoid
water fronting green. Was par-5 in '93

5 4 408
Green is accessible, but beware on tee: Lake left of landing
area enlarged since '93 and closer to fairway

6 4 395
Hump in landing area removed, so players more likely to bust
driver between ponds than lay up with iron

7 3 177
Sloping green provides receptive backstop. Firing at hole
mandatory because only a deuce will win this hole

8 4 428
Once a monstrous 460-yarder. Water along left side of fairway
close to landing area. Par still a good score

9 4 433
Goose Bump City. You know you're not in Kansas anymore when you
see huge grandstand around green

OUT 36 3,611

HOLE PAR YARDS
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

10 4 284
Choices galore on world's best match-play hole. Duval, Mickelson
and Woods will go flag-hunting with irons

11 4 419
In four-ball, biggest hitter goes first on par-4s and -5s so he
can let 'er rip without worrying about accuracy

12 3 208
Creek enlarged into green-front hazard, transforming hole.
Single make-or-break swing decides winner

13 4 384
Nuke a drive and make a putt, or forget it. Curiously, home to
course's lone pot bunker, left of the back side of green

14 3 190
Spectator mounding around green created amphitheater effect and
easier tee shot to bowl-like putting surface

15 5 545
Another decision on second shot: try to clear cross-bunker 50
yards from green or lay up for longer third?

16 4 413
Two-tiered green makes for tough target, but at this point,
match is close and attacking pin is only approach

17 5 564
Unless hole plays into wind, eagle time. Reachable in two for
all because severe dogleg easily cut, saving 50 yards

18 4 473
Tougher than 18th at Atlanta Athletic Club. Best way for
Americans to avoid nemesis hole: Close out Euros earlier

IN 36 3,480 TOTAL 72 7,091