WHEN players and spectators tried to shelter from the rain, groundsmen worked valiantly to clear water from the course, and the organisers were forced to arrange an extra day's play, it hardly looked as if the Ryder Cup would end in the joyful excitement that glowed on the world's television screens yesterday. And no matter how firmly the fans might draw a decent veil over recent unhappy things, it hardly looked as if top golfers, as famed for their wealth as for their toughness and skill, could be transformed not only into heroes but lovable heroes.
But so it turned out at Celtic Manor yesterday. With the result of the meeting between the United States and Europe in doubt almost to the very end, Graeme McDowell, one of three Irishmen on the European team, settled the issue.
His American opponent wept, proving that golfers are human. Others, too, shed tears, but they were tears of happiness.
It would be too much to say that the tournament proved the reality of European identity or unity. But it did prove that there was such a thing as European consciousness and solidarity, which enhances, instead of diminishing, national identity and pride.
And nowhere is this truer than in Ireland. We are going through hard times, but if anything alleviates them it is the astounding run of Irish successes in international sport. Celtic Manor has taken its place among them, and we all feel a little better.