Hole 15 hints at Cup drama

The possibility that 2010’s 15th hole will provide most Ryder Cup drama was heavily underlined on Tuesday

The strong possibility that the Twenty Ten’s 15th hole at Celtic Manor could be the one to provide most Ryder Cup drama was heavily underlined during the European pratice on Tuesday.

Only three of the 12 players – Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington – found the green 262 yards away at the driveable par four.

But Graeme McDowell was the one who came off wearing the biggest smile. He struck a 50-yard pitch from dense rough into the hole for an eagle two.

“Do it on Sunday,” shouted a fan.

That gave the US Open champion another memorable moment on the course where he won the Wales Open in June – with closing rounds of 64 and 63 no less.

McDowell and McIlroy were playing a match against Italians Edoardo and Francesco Molinari and were looking for revenge after finishing second to the brothers at the World Cup in China last November.

The eagle put them three up after five holes, the European team having started the first day of official practice from the 11th tee while the Americans were off from the first.

What Luke Donald noticed on his playing of the 15th was that it had changed from the Wales Open, where he finished third.

There had been a strip of fairway short of the green on the direct route then – it can be played alternatively as a dogleg round the trees – but now it is all rough.

And rough so bad that a search was needed to find Edoardo Molinari’s ball just a few paces from the putting surface.

Darren Clarke, one of the assistant captains, was following that group and stepped in to discuss chipping with Francesco Molinari.

After teeing off from the 16th Westwood signed an autograph for a boy in a wheelchair.

On being told the youngster had a broken metatarsal the world number three, out since August 6 with a torn calf muscle, said: “You and David Beckham, eh? But I suppose you want to play for Nottingham Forest (Westwood’s side).”

McDowell’s magic on the 15th was certainly not repeated at the long 18th. He put two balls in the water.