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The thing nobody wants you to know about matchplay golf – and, by extension, the Ryder Cup – is that the course seldom matters.

Bethpage or Bude, Marco Simone or Machrihanish. So long as you have two teams of 12 players, you could play it pretty much anywhere.

It’s only for reasons unrelated to golf that it visits the venues it does, principally destinations with massive swathes of land to accommodate the infrastructure the match now demands and, more often than not, individuals or governments willing to pony up for the privilege.

But the actual golf? You could have Rory and Rahm taking on Spieth and Thomas at Royal Arse End Of Nowhere or Insignificant National and it would still be the Ryder Cup. It’s the actors, not the stage, that define this particular drama.

It’s also the case that he who pays the piper calls the tune. If somebody or somewhere wants the Ryder Cup badly enough and they are prepared to pay for it, they’ll likely get it. It’s not for nothing that the host selection procedure is called a ‘bidding process’. In the case of this week, a coordinated approach by the Italian Golf Federation, the Italian government and the House of Biagiotti fashion brand, which owns Marco Simone, got the deal across the line.

Wales had the country’s first billionaire, Sir Terry Matthews, to thank for the match going there in 2010. For Ireland in 2006, it was Michael Smurfit’s deep pockets that took the contest to The K Club. For Smurfit and The K Club, read JP McManus and Adare Manor, and that’s your 2027 host.

Money doesn’t talk at the Ryder Cup. It sings.

All of which begs the question: where next?

Beyond Adare in 2027, nowhere else is confirmed on this side of the Atlantic. The expectation is that Spain will get the nod for 2031, with various English bids kicking around for 2035.

But here’s a thought.

What if Saudi Arabia fancies it?

Yes, I know. It’s not part of Europe. Duh! That logic might have more credibility, of course, were it not for the fact that Dubai, China, Australia and South Africa were cornerstones of the one-time European Tour. Details, schmetails.

Indeed, suggestions that Dubai might ‘get a shot’ at staging a Ryder Cup go back the better part of a generation.

Ahead of the 2014 Irish Open, Graeme McDowell described the prospect as “a little crazy” before adding: “When you look at what Dubai and the Middle East means to the European Tour, it would be a pretty amazing Ryder Cup venue. They have got some amazing golf courses over there. I don’t think the Americans would have a problem with it. It would be a fun place to have a Ryder Cup.”

Courtesy of the ecosystem-disrupting LIV Golf, Saudi Arabia would now seem to be the frontrunner to spirit the Ryder Cup away to the Middle East.

The country has made no secret of its intention to put high-profile sporting events at the heart of its blueprint for diversification. Formula 1 and boxing have already been wooed by its wealth. The FIFA World Cup is widely expected to follow in 2034. Its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, even told FOX News last week that he intends to try and add another 1.5% to the country’s GDP just through sport.

It stands to reason that the Ryder Cup is on its radar. It may even form part of KSA’s bargaining in the fleshing out of the ‘Framework Agreement’ it is currently negotiating with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. Only a fool would assume they have money but no terms.

Whether the DP World Tour, which administers the Ryder Cup from a European perspective, would entertain a match in Saudi remains to be seen. A compromise might be a new, purpose-built, Ryder Cup-ready venue on European soil, owned and operated the Saudis. That might keep all parties happy. It would certainly seem to be the path of least resistance.

But who knows?

The only thing we can say with any certainty is that having lots of money is a good ice-breaker. And the Saudis, with their $776 billion Public Investment Fund, have more than most.

Rightly or wrongly, that’s what matters. The course? Far less.

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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