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Opinion & Analysis

Wunder: The Ryder Cup Awards

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What good is a team competition if you can’t identify the individuals who provided the greatest contributions to the cause?

I was very proud to be a golf fan this weekend and I am confident that the game is in better shape than it was a week ago. The festivities at Medinah were like taking in the Star Wars trilogy over a long weekend. There were heroes, villains, ups, downs, comedy, drama and so much else to satisfy our pallets. It was epic.

Sure the U.S. Team lost but we have not fielded a “team” like we did in 2012 in more than a decade. What I mean is although I’m certain the team unity has been there in past years, it was never as visible as it was at Medinah. We had a ball club out there this weekend — each man was fulfilling a duty in the best way he knew how. In the end, the score (which should have ended in a tie, but that’s another story) concluded with yet another European victory. But this time, I, as an American golf fan, was not left scratching my head wondering why. It was a three-day competition where a great horse came from the middle of the pack to beat another great horse. It’s actually very liberating to not have to point the finger at someone. All I have are accolades to give.

So without further ado, here are the winners:

TEAM EUROPE

Rookie of the week: Nicolas Colsaerts

A complete and utter no brainer. Not only was he the only rookie on the European side, he announced his Ryder Cup debut on Friday afternoon with seven birdies and an eagle against Tiger and Stricker. He seemed completely unphased by the pressure. He did, however, finish the week 1-3, but a year from now we won’t remember anything but his performance on Friday.

Comeback player: Sergio Garcia

The Spaniard lost his first two matches of the week. But from Saturday afternoon foursomes to the his singles victory over Jim Furyk, Sergio pulled out the two wins that in my opinion broke the Americans back. Like his mentor Seve Ballesteros, Garcia won without his best stuff just by treating each hole as its own unique match. It was inspiring to watch and further strengthened my feeling that Sergio is always an asset in these matches. He possesses that Ryder Cup X-Factor that our top American veterans don’t have.

MVP: Martin Kaymer

I’ll probably take a beating for this one for not acknowledging Ian Poulter, but let me say this — Kaymer made the second most pressure-packed putt in Ryder Cup history. He not only redeemed his countryman Bernhard Langer — he redeemed himself. Despite the many questions about the state his game, he put his head down and drilled a putt to win the Ryder Cup. Nothing he will ever do personally in the game will trump that. As the great Ty Webb said, “Don’t worry about this one, you miss it, we lose.” Enough said.

Honorable Mention: Jose Marie Olazabal

If you study the footage and watch Olie throughout these matches, his reaction was stoic. He was a brick wall and that energy, even in times of defeat, gives players a sense of security. He never looked panicked or even really affected by what was happening. Like a great field general he waited until the final outcome was revealed to express his emotion. It was brilliant. To have that confidence when you aren’t the one hitting the shots is impressive. If the outcome was different he would have taken a beating in the press, unfairly in my opinion.

TEAM USA

Rookie of the week: Keegan Bradley

Let’s identify what really happened for U.S. Golf this week — an American became a Ryder Cup team leader. With the smiles, fist pumps, bear hugs, passion and everything else, Keegan Bradley represented exactly what we want to see from our U.S. players. Granted, he lost on Sunday and squandered opportunities to become a golf immortal, but the fireworks he provided were awe inspiring. For the first time in a while, an American Ryder Cup player matched the energy of the crowd. Bradley allowed me to forget about the overall loss and appreciate the fact that we have an American that will energize us for years to come.

Comeback player: Phil Mickelson (via Keegan Bradley)

Phil was golf fan No. 1 this week. His play was up and down, but his enthusiasm and mentorship of Bradley was more than we could ask for. He took full advantage of his time with Bradley and rode the young stallion to a 3-0 team record. I agree he probably could have played on Saturday afternoon but his intentions were in the spirit of what was best for the team, a quality that gets looked over quite a bit with him. Phil has taken responsibility for the fact that his legacy on Tour is far more than victories in majors, it’s his ability to pass on his wisdom and enthusiasm to the younger guys that will carry it on. These young stars look to him to lead and he delivers. As a fan I thank him for that. It’s far more important to me than his record in these matches.

MVP: Dustin Johnson

DJ redeemed himself this week. After going 1-3 in Wales, he came back strong with a 3-0 record and holed a putt at the 17th hole on Saturday that at the time seemed to have the U.S. team on its way to victory. Although DJ isn’t the most emotional player, it was nice to see his reaction on No. 17. He had struggled all day and that putt forgave all previous sins. On Sunday his five-birdie victory over Nicolas Colsaerts provided the last bit of comfort U.S. fans would experience.

We kind of all won this week. It seemed like the Cup this year was three matches in one. Like great cinema we were privileged to watch great golf played with heart and a love of country. I hope this fire continues and I can’t wait until I get those goosebumps again. Like a pure golf shot off the center of the face, it’s those that keep us coming back for more.

Thanks boys. See you at Gleneagles in 2014.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

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John Wunder was born in Seattle, Wash., and grew up playing at Rainier G&CC. He moved to Southern California when he had the rare opportunity of working in the Anaheim Angels clubhouse and has been living in Cali. ever since. He has a severe passion/addiction for the game and has been a member of GolfWRX since 2005. He now works as the Director of Development and Production for The Coalition Group in Los Angeles, Calif.

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Opinion & Analysis

The History of Course Design is Yours to Play at Oglebay

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There is a much-talked about “New Golden Age” of golf course design underway that is driven by demand for ever-more spectacular courses at the top end of the resort golf market. Destinations such as Streamsong, Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Sand Valley and others provide the traveling golfer a spectacular golf experience; unfortunately, it comes at a price tag that is equally spectacular. When a week playing golf in Florida can cost as much as a week in Scotland, where do you go for a golf getaway that doesn’t require a second mortgage?

Oglebay Golf Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia, doesn’t just provide an affordable golf vacation option; with its three golf courses, it provides players the chance to experience a condensed history of American golf course design through its three courses. The resort sits on land that was once owned by a wealthy industrialist and is now a part of the city park system. Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, Oglebay draws the majority of its golfers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. It’s kind of cool that when you drive to Oglebay from the Washington, D.C., you hit all of those states except Ohio, which is just a few minutes away from Wheeling. The area is especially picturesque in the autumn months when the changing colors of the leaves are at their peak.

The property has a rich history in the business and sporting history of West Virginia, but the three golf courses, Crispin, are a special prize that taken together form a primer on the history of golf design in the past 90 years. The 5,670-yard Crispin course is a one-off design by local golf enthusiast Robert Biery that was completed in 1930 and is a fascinating study of design techniques of that era. The slopes and elevation are severe and extreme by today’s standards. A clue was the raised eyebrow of the assistant pro when I said that I would walk the course. Uneven lies are the order of the day, the product of a time when there was neither the money nor equipment readily available to create gentle slopes and even surfaces; the course is true to the original contours of the West Virginia hillside.  There is little relief on the greens, which run a little slower than typical greens but make up for it in size and slope. It is by far the shortest of the three courses but the par-4 8th hole and par-5 9th holes are a thousand yards of joy and pain.

Hole No. 6 at the Klieves course

The Klieves Course is a 6,800-yard, par-71 Arnold Palmer design that was completed in 2000. The design features broad fairways, mildly undulating greens and opportunities for heroics on short par-4’s, all the prototypical characteristics of modern resort golf courses. While some architects choose to torture and torment, Palmer courses put a premium on fun and this one is no exception. The par-5, 515 yard 6th is a great example of the risk/reward available without that challenges the resort golfer without the need to humiliate. The course is very well maintained tee to green, and you’ll want to keep a fully charged battery to take photos of the vistas from the elevated tee boxes.

Hole No. 13 at the Jones course

In my humble opinion, the true gem is the Robert Trent Jones course. The 7,004-yard, par-72 Course carries a healthy 75.1 rating/141 slope from the back tees. It utilizes a gorgeous piece of land that meanders across the West Virginia hills to give a mesmerizing collection of holes that are equal parts scenery and challenge. Both nines start from elevated tee boxes hitting down into valleys that offer classic risk/reward propositions. Usually I have no problem identifying a favorite hole or two, but on this course it’s difficult. Having said that, the stretch of No. 4 (par 3, 193 yards), No. 5 (par-5, 511 yards) and No. 6 (par-4, 420 yards) are among the best I have played anywhere as a show of nature’s beauty and the at of laying out a golf hole. And the four par 3’s are not the place to pic up an easy birdie. The only one less that 190 yards from the tips is the 158-yard 15th, which is protected by a small, undulating green. All in all, it’s a perfect representation of the genius of Robert Trent Jones.

The golf is good at Oglebay and the prices are better. You can get in 18 at the Oglebay courses for as little as $32…on the weekend. And when you’re not playing golf, you can take advantage of the myriad of outdoor sports activities, tour the Oglebay mansion, hit the spa or visit the Glass Museum on the property (I promise it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds). There’s a lot of great new golf resorts out there and that’s a good thing for the golf industry, but destinations like Oglebay prove that there’s a lot of life left in the old classics as well.

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Legend Rees Jones speaks on designing Danzante Bay in Mexico

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