WHEN your regional rugby side are bottom feeders struggling to overcome a financial handicap compared to their rivals and your football team play in tier five and aren’t even flourishing there, take the chance to watch top level sport whenever you can.

That’s the position Newport sport fans are faced with and that’s why the Celtic Manor’s ISPS Handa Wales Open, which begins on Thursday, remains arguably the highlight of the city’s sporting calendar.

Our biggest sporting event – expect 25,000 or so supporters over the four days – the Wales Open remains a fixture on the European Tour event.

It’s imperative a country as enthusiastic for golf as Wales has a tournament of this stature and, as ever, we should be in for a fantastic four days.

There is always an extra element to tour events played in a Ryder Cup year and having European captain Jose Maria Olazabal in attendance only increases that feeling.

It seems incredible that almost two years have passed since Newport staged the third biggest sporting event on the planet and this year the tournament is not just a trip down memory lane with places on the 2012 team up-for-grabs.

In our Wales Open supplement in today’s centre pages resort owner Sir Terry Matthews makes clear that there is a commitment for at least three more tournaments and that’s great news for golf fans across the region.

The Twenty Ten course is among the most exciting and aesthetically pleasing in Europe and the fact that top level stars from the golfing world continue to come here is something we shouldn’t take for granted.

This year should be phenomenal too with several players arriving in absolutely superb form.

Chief among them is golf’s renaissance man Paul Lawrie, a previous winner of the Wales Open and the man who finished second at Wentworth on Sunday.

Lawrie is in the best form of his career since winning the Open in 1999 and he’s a good bet to become the first ever ‘double’ winner of the Wales Open.

Ditto South African Richard Sterne who had a fine time at Wentworth too and could make his second ever European Tour win his second victory at the Celtic Manor.

All the usual candidates will be present and correct trying to provide us with a home winner and call me crazy, but I fancy Newport’s Phillip Price might surprise a few people this week. I’m not tipping him to win, but he could end up the top placed Welsh player.

If you’d like a tip – even though my brief Pearlo’s Punt section was as popular as a trip to the dentist and as successful as an X Factor contestant trying to hold onto a record deal – I think you can’t go too far wrong betting on players with the surname Lawrie or Molinari, Peter Lawrie also finishing top ten at Wentworth.