Natural disaster as opener descends into farce
Published 02/10/2010 | 05:00
What a shower. The Americans' waterproofs sprung a leak. Celtic Manor in October lost more than seven hours' play through heavy rain. The Ryder Cup's wonderful playing format has been ripped up to squeeze in three sessions of play in which all 24 players will now take part. It was a day of embarrassment caused by greed and incompetence.
Professional sport can be a sordid business at times, but the decision to push the Ryder Cup into October to accommodate the end-of-season FedEx Cup cash-fest in the United States has brought undeserved misery to golf fans and Wales.
With only four hours of play possible yesterday, the European Tour's chief executive, George O'Grady, announced a new format in an attempt to finish by tomorrow evening. Had the broadcasters been screeching in O'Grady's ear?
Now, instead of the customary five sessions of play, there will be a second session consisting of six foursomes and a third session consisting of two foursomes and two fourballs. The final session will see the 12 singles matches. The nuances of captaincy have been lost. All 12 players will now play in the next two sessions in a format that is horribly similar to the Presidents' Cup.
America's 2008-winning captain referred to "a disaster". Europe's 2006-winning captain talked of "a major mistake". But Paul Azinger and Ian Woosnam were not raging about the debased format or the daft decision to play the Ryder Cup along a rain-soaked Welsh Valley in October. They meant the Americans' faulty rain gear.
The Americans were very fortunate that play was suspended at 9.45am, because two hours into the fourballs they were up to their necks in water. They finished the day up in two of the four matches, level in another and down in one, but when the rain was falling the Americans were down in the top three matches.
It was amateur hour in golf's biggest event. The Americans' waterproof tops were heavy with rain and the grips of their clubs were damp with the water seeping through their bags. When they came off the course a call was put into ProQuip, the suppliers of Europe's waterproof gear. While Tiger Woods asked why his captain could not let the players' sponsors supply them with logo-free equipment that worked, the Europeans were laughing their heads off.
Ian Poulter said: "Ours are keeping us nice and dry, that's all I'm going to say." Colin Montgomerie said: "Our team room is happier than theirs right now."
Montgomerie's detailed instructions to Richard Head, the designer of Europe's wet-weather gear, had proved as prescient as Nick Faldo when he said in his closing speech two years ago: "See you in Wales and bring your waterproofs."
The rain swept in off the hills in the dawn's early light, dampening the European crowd's wit that had been so evident at Valhalla two years ago.
The chant of the day was: "There's only two Molinaris" as Edoardo and Francesco appeared as early cheerleaders, but the others were damp squibs.
The American rookie Dustin Johnson hit the opening tee shot of the 2010 Ryder Cup and missed the fairway way right. Rory McIlroy slapped his first drive to the almost identical spot and said afterwards: "I've never experienced anything like that at a golf tournament, I was just hoping to make contact with it."
From that moment the morning teetered towards farce. Padraig Harrington nearly decapitated Woods' group in the match ahead. The Irishman hit his second shot while the players on the green were waiting for the water to be squeegeed off their line. Ross Fisher got a drop from a punter's brolly.
Pavin drove his buggy into a bog.
"Drainage, drainage, drainage," said Terry Matthews when stressing the virtues of his course. "Water, water everywhere," said Graeme McDowell as he looked hopelessly for a dry spot on which to drop his ball. Stewart Cink said: "It was almost hard to call it a golf course."
The Americans, with the patriotic exceptions of Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton in the final match, looked close to giving up. Then, after two hours of water sports, play was postponed, much to the Europeans' disappointment. McDowell said: "It wasn't raining much in the European team room when we came in."
It was far from the first rain scandal in the history Ryder Cup. In 1947 the organisers decided to stage the contest at Portland, Oregon in November.
The course was almost under water. Dai Rees compared the conditions to an Indian monsoon and 'Toots' Cotton, wife of captain Henry, said: "No club in England would consider even holding a monthly medal in such weather."
Fog delays and rain delays continued, culminating in the loss of two hours at Valderrama in 1997. That was unexpected, but anyone could have seen this coming.
The rain gave the Americans the chance to regroup and they came storming back in the two hours left of play. But with six holes still to go in the top match and 10 holes in the bottom, they may yet be affected by the rising damp that has rotted this Ryder Cup. (© Daily Telegraph, London)