Golf: Ryder Cup - Spectators spend the day watching the action - live on radio

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The Independent Online
The rain in Spain fell mainly on the golf course yesterday. It disrupted the Ryder Cup, but never mind the players and the groundstaff, as Tim Glover reports, it made life even more difficult for the spectators who crowded into Valderrama

The case for staging the Ryder Cup in Spain was a powerful one. The flagship for the Armada, of course, was Seve Ballesteros and once Great Britain and Ireland had accepted the idea of devolution in reverse it was only a matter of time before the match was staged in mainland Europe.

And where better than Valderrama, the pet creation of Jaime Ortiz-Patino, and Europe's answer to Augusta National?

The advertising logo for Spain is a golden sun and the only mention of a reign in Spain refers to the monarchy. Every contingency plan under the sun has been catered for, but one of the few things Mr Patino, a billionaire, has no control over whatsoever is the weather.

At 5.30am, when some of the more serious revellers were thinking of taking a nightcap, the heavens opened. The rain was so torrential, tables and chairs outside cafes and bars became flotsam and jetsam.

The timing could not have been worse. The rain filled bunkers and grass swales on the course, which was declared unplayable. Spectators were advised through radio broadcasts to remain in their hotels, boats and homes and to remain glued to their sets for weather updates.

The start of the competition was delayed by one hour and forty minutes as the first day developed into a marathon. But for the extraordinary blotting paper qualities of Valderrama, it is doubtful if there would have been any play at all yesterday .

At the instigation of Ballesteros, the format for the 32nd Ryder Cup had been changed. Instead of beginning with foursomes, they played fourballs and it was desperately slow going. The plan was to begin the foursomes at 3.40pm but in the event they had to put them back to 4.10. Those who played in both the fourballs and foursomes barely had time to snatch a quick sandwich. In the morning, Nick Faldo and Lee Westwood took 5hr 35min to lose to Brad Faxon and Fred Couples.

At this rate they'll still be playing next weekend. Unfortunately the forecast is not good. The meteorological office in Birmingham (where the Ryder Cup will be staged in 2001) predicts more showers with outbursts of thundery rain.

This is bad news not only for the players and the groundstaff, but also for the 25,000 spectators. They have paid pounds 150 for a "season ticket". It is not possible to buy a ticket daily.

It is hard going for spectators to get a decent view although innovations have made life a little easier. They can buy a miniature radio and listen to the broadcasts from Radio 5 Live. Or they can buy a periscope, which enables them to view the golf above the heads around the crowded greens.

The implement was designed and produced by Philip Mickelson, the father of the American left-hander. Given the amount of water around, a periscope seemed appropriate.