Big Cedar Resort's Payne’s Valley course hosts 4 major champions for a high-powered opening in the Ozarks
TV commentator David Feherty stopped himself when introducing Tiger Woods for the opening tee shot Tuesday at Payne’s Valley course in Ridgedale, Mo. Woods needs no introduction, and his newest creation, Payne’s Valley, likely won't need one for much longer.
Avid golfers have been closely tracking updates from the course, which pays tribute to the late Payne Stewart, a native of nearby Springfield and three-time major champion. As part of Big Cedar Lodge, Payne’s Valley is the first public-access course from Woods’ TGR Design company, so the PGA Tour legend had a few pals help him open the place in style for a Golf Channel TV audience.
Woods teamed with Justin Thomas, a fellow resident of Jupiter, Fla., for a match-play exhibition against England’s Justin Rose and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, both former world No. 1-ranked players and major champions. The event benefited the Payne Stewart Family Foundation, which supports several organizations, including Kids Across America, the American Junior Golf Association and The First Tee. The two teams competed in six-hole intervals, with a mix of four-ball, foursomes and singles, over 18 holes.
The day was filled with light-hearted conversation, including favorite orders from Domino’s, stories of past interactions with Stewart, who died in a 1999 plane accident, and one-on-one cart interviews with Feherty all powered by Apple AirPods. Woods’ goal at Payne's Valley was to create an expansive layout suitable for golfers of all skill levels, featuring wide fairways and large greens. And if the average golfer needed any more convincing to visit the middle of America, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player appeared on the telecast to tout their own designs at Big Cedar Lodge as well.
The Ozarks were on display throughout the match. The TGR Design team crafted its vision for a golf course while upholding the natural beauty of southwest Missouri. Woods said that his designers moved only a few trees and created a few creeks, resulting in beautified water features and a tree-lined mountain range culminating at the bonus 19th hole, nicknamed Big Rock at Payne's Valley. The par-3 hole was designed by Big Cedar Lodge owner Johnny Morris and features an island green backed by a limestone rockface, with a waterfall running down the center.
The match was all-square going into the 19th, with Thomas 1 up in his singles match against McIlroy and Rose 1 up against Woods. Player, Nicklaus and Stewart’s son, Aaron, joined the foursome for their final tee shots, and it all ended via tiebreak as Thomas put his ball within 10 feet of the hole to win the Payne’s Valley Cup.
In all, it was a fun event at a new golf destination during a time when so few people are traveling. However, the real winner still proved to be Big Cedar Lodge. When we finally regain a sense of normalcy, golfers from around world will be lining up to play the first Tiger Woods-designed public golf course.