Spain have emerged as favorites to win the 2031 Ryder Cup bid, despite England’s strong bid to host the biennial fight for what would be the first time in 29 years.
PGA Catalunya was originally built to host the 1997 Ryder Cup, but delays meant the match, the first on continental soil, was played at Valderrama.
However, after coming close again at this year’s Ryder Cup in Rome, the Ángel Gallardo design has worked its way to the front of the line for the match in eight years.
Few can question the quality of the resort an hour north of Barcelona, with its plethora of luxury accommodation, its 10-minute transfer to Girona airport, and its location in such a large catchment area. But two other factors are perhaps even more important.
It is owned by Irishman Denis O’Brien, who has spent millions on overhaul and improvements since his purchase in 2007, and has the added benefit of promised £100m government backing both nationally and regionally.
There is no doubt that the European Tour is in love with a wealthy benefactor – see Sir Michael Smurfit at the K Club in 2006, Sir Terry Matthews at Celtic Manor in 2010 and JP McManus at Adare Manor, where the 2027 fight will take place, as their participation almost casts a guarantee on the financial promises.
But government backing is also paramount and in these economic climates it is clearly an issue in the UK and indeed in Germany, the third country in the race.
The London Club in Kent, a project in Luton and another in Bolton are all vying for the honour, but they will be disappointed. 2035 is thought to be more likely for England.
Guy Kinnings, the director of the Ryder Cup and deputy chief executive of the Tour, is keeping quiet. The sources indicate that, while the Catalan course is in the box, a change of attitude is not impossible, although it is considered improbable.
The PGA Catalunya Stadium Course has hosted several Tour events – including the Catalunya Championship last May, hastily organized after the postponement of the China Open due to the pandemic – and its second track, the Tour Course, has hosted the finals of the Q-School de Tour for 15 years.
The ties are there, as are the commitment and funding, and one must consider that there are probabilities. O’Brien would love to follow his compatriot and friend McManus in organizing the party.
The 64-year-old from Cork made his fortune in telecommunications with Digicel, but he also owns the Quinta do Lago golf course in the Algarve and is a prominent minority shareholder in Celtic.
“From its inception, our Stadium Course was designed and built to host the world’s biggest events, and hosting the Ryder Cup would be the realization of this vision,” O’Brien said during the latest bidding process.
‘This way, it’s a lot less messy’
The mechanisms of the selection procedure have broken down in recent years and have become less formal than what had, at times, been an unseemly FIFA-style contest.
A source told Telegraph Sport: “The Tour found out that they would have four or five offers, with a lot of money spent on each one, and in the end there would just be a happy party, with the others suddenly against the Tour. This way, it’s much less messy.
“The Tour had the intention of announcing at the end of 2022 but for everything that has happened, it is understandable that there was no rush. There are eight years to go and in Europe, it’s not like in the United States, which are a bit ahead of us with their future venues”. In the US, host courses have been announced through 2033.
Meanwhile, the focus here at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club is squarely on Rome. The inaugural Hero Cup is effectively a descendant of the sadly lamented Seve Trophy, which pits Great Britain and Ireland against continental Europe in a dress rehearsal. It’s been an intriguing battle, closely monitored by Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald, going into the final day consisting of 10 singles, with Fransceco Molinari’s side leading Tommy Fleetwoods’ side 8½-6½.