Monday 27 March 2017

Europe hold early edge on soggy morning

Europe's Martin Kaymer of Germany, left, and Lee Westwood of England shelter under umbrellas on the first hole. Photo: PA
Europe's Martin Kaymer of Germany, left, and Lee Westwood of England shelter under umbrellas on the first hole. Photo: PA

Europe today drew first blood on the opening morning of the Ryder Cup - but horrendous conditions were threatening to bring play to a halt.

There were already several patches of standing water on the first fairway and greenkeepers were still attempting to clear more from the landing area just moments before the opening tee shots were struck.

And as heavy rain continued to fall, large puddles were forming on the greens and the first fairway was looking more like the river Usk which runs alongside it.

Conditions were even less palatable in the rough, with Tiger Woods unable to even get his ball back on the short grass with a fairway wood after pulling his opening drive into trouble.

The home side were coping far better with the weather, Lee Westwood holing from six feet for birdie on the second to give him and playing partner Martin Kaymer the lead over Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson in the opening match after Johnson had missed from slightly further away.

Graeme McDowell's par on the first was good enough to win that hole too against Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar, with the American pair only able to manage a bogey five between them.

And it was the same story in the third match with Ross Fisher and Ian Poulter going one up on Woods and Steve Stricker - who had a 100pc record from four matches in last year's Presidents Cup - courtesy of Fisher's par four.

However, all the work needed to clear the greens and fairways meant it had taken McDowell and Rory McIlroy's group an amazing 26 minutes to play the opening hole, with European skipper Colin Montgomerie admitting time would be a major factor.

"I've been told if this was a strokeplay event this might not be taking place," Montgomerie said.

"Fingers crossed this (play) continues because we don't have much leeway to finish these matches on time.

"It must favour us this weather. It's not fun for anybody but less so for the Americans. Let's just hope it does not get so waterlogged that we can't play."

In the final match, Padraig Harrington will no doubt be using the conditions and slow play as an excuse after smashing his second shot through the green while the match ahead was still putting out.

Harrington, a controversial wild card pick by Montgomerie, looked stunned when he was told and raised his hands in a sheepish apology.

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