October 1, 2010
The Ryder Cup looks set to finish on Monday for the first time in its 83-year history because rain turned Celtic Manor into a water-logged mess on Friday.
The home team was off to a good start, leading three of the four morning best-ball matches when play was suspended for the first time since the 1997 Ryder Cup in Spain.
The forecast called for the rain to move out by early afternoon, but with only a few extra hours built into a tight three-day schedule of matches, it looked as though the first Ryder Cup in Wales could be headed for a Monday finish.
"It's a shame," U.S. assistant captain Jeff Sluman said. "There's 10 years of planning that went into this, and we're held hostage by the weather."
The Twenty Ten course, which was built especially for the Ryder Cup, has a complex drainage system that allows the water to flow off quickly. But first, it had to stop raining. Officials said they already had contingency plans to extend the event until Monday if necessary.
"Our people, we feel, probably need about an hour of pushing water to make it better than it was when we started," said John Paramor, the European Tour's chief referee. "So that is our goal."
The players, meanwhile, headed back to the clubhouse and tried to pass the time. Ian Poulter tweeted a picture of Padraig Harrington sleeping on the floor of the Europe locker room, using a bag as a pillow.
The Americans were forced to change their wet weather gear because they didn't work.
Their rainsuits were criticized by British television commentators, including renowned U.S. coach Butch Harmon, as looking more suited for a basketball team. Amazingly, American officials had to hustle over to the merchandise tent, where fans shop, to snatch up as many replacement suits as they could find on the shelves.
"We're disappointed with how the rain gear performed," PGA of America spokesman Julius Mason said.
The rain gear ordered by U.S. captain Corey Pavin was made by Sun Mountain, which provided a navy blue suit with white stripes that had "USA" and the players' names on the back.
The new suits, made by ProQuip, have only a Ryder Cup logo, without any special markings for a U.S. uniform, Mason said.
The Europeans couldn't resist poking a little fun at the Americans' plight.
"Just have to say our waterproofs are performing very well!" Rory McIlroy tweeted.
The defending champion Americans got off to a shaky start, missing the fairway with five of their first six tee shots. Phil Mickelson was the only one to hit it where he wanted — and he flew his next shot over the green.
Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer bolted to a 2-up advantage through five holes on Mickelson and Dustin Johnson in the leadoff match. Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy were 1 up on Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar after four holes, the same edge that Poulter and Ross Fisher held on Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker through No. 3.
Amazingly, the only match the U.S. was leading was the last one. That's the slot where captain Corey Pavin made the heavily debated decision to pair newcomers Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton, but they rewarded his faith early on with birdies at the first two holes.
Overton rolled in a long putt from behind the first green, and the long-hitting Watson made birdie at the par-5 second for a 2-up lead on Luke Donald and Harrington.
The U.S. hoped the delay might stem the European momentum, or at least clear out the nasty weather. Europe captain Colin Montgomerie felt his team had an edge playing in damp conditions.
"It's not fun for anyone, agreed," Monty said shortly after the opening shot. "But it's probably less fun for the Americans. In America, when it rains it usually thunders, too, and you can't play. I just hope it doesn't get so bad, the course gets so water-logged, that we can't play."
That's just what happened.
Even with the players able to take relief in the fairway, there simply wasn't any place to drop without winding up in another puddle.
"If this was any other golf tournament, it would have been stopped earlier," said Thomas Bjorn, an assistant captain for the Europeans. "It's too wet to really continue. We're in a situation where people are considering dropping from fairways into the rough. Then it just becomes a bit silly."
The atmosphere was electric shortly after sunrise — well, assuming it rose behind the thick, gray clouds — as thousands of umbrella-toting fans chanted "Ole! Ole! Ole!" in hopes of spurring on a European team that featured six newcomers. An amphitheater-style stadium was built around the first tee, allowing 2,000 fans to watch the opening shots.
The Americans have five rookies of their own — plus the world's top-ranked player, Tiger Woods.
Pavin decided to send out Woods in the third slot, instead of the opening or closing matches that he played in previous Ryder Cups. Maybe he needed a change after struggling through a winless year on the course and the collapse of his marriage, done in by numerous extramarital affairs.
Woods made a birdie at the par-5 second hole, laying up with his second shot and sticking a wedge to 6 feet. But Poulter pushed the Europeans back into the lead at No. 3, rolling in a 25-foot birdie.