Everything was under control, except the Welsh weather...
Robin Scott-Elliot on how a nation's moment in the sun was ruined by Mother Nature
Saturday 02 October 2010
Nick Faldo's tenure as captain of Europe's Ryder Cup team two years ago may have been a sporting disaster, but he got one thing right.
"Make sure you bring your waterproofs to Wales," he advised the Americans as he looked forward to the next meeting.
Yesterday Faldo's words proved all too prescient as the event that was supposed to put Wales on the world's sporting map left 24 of the planet's best golfers, 45,000 spectators and millions of television viewers mournfully consulting their weather maps instead.
Heavy autumnal rain swept across the Usk Valley north of Newport yesterday morning, driving players from the Celtic Manor golf course after only two hours of play. It left a dark cloud over what had been forecast as the principality's greatest sporting day, and one that should have marked a personal triumph for Sir Terry Matthews, the billionaire who had made it his 20-year mission to bring what some claim is the world's third biggest sporting event to the land of his birth.
Matthews, 67, was born in a hospital that used to stand where the course and five-star resort he has established (at a cost of £125m) now reside. "I have built the best Ryder Cup facility ever," he said ahead of the event. Yesterday that claim was questioned as the players, some of the most richly rewarded in sport, sprawled on wooden benches in the team rooms waiting for the rain to stop after play was suspended for much of the day. The course drainage system may have been described as the "best on the planet", but even it could not cope with the full might of a Welsh rainstorm. By early afternoon there were already predictions that play would have to spill into Monday for the first time in the event's 83-year history, prompting the organisers to rejig the weekend's schedule in an attempt to claw back some of the time lost to the weather.
The first shot was struck at 7.45am by the US team's Dustin Johnson, in conditions that could hardly have been more alien to a man who lives in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. His team soon had another problem to deal with; their waterproofs were nothing of the sort. They did not, declared an official US statement, "repel the water to the players' liking".
US officials were forced to make a dash to a nearby merchandise tent – belonging to the company who had equipped the European team – and buy a bundle of £120 jackets and £50 trousers, equipping the entire team at a cost of over £4,000. Corey Pavin, the US captain, said: "We were disappointed with the performance of [our waterproofs]. They were not doing what we wanted them to do." It caused amusement among their opponents, with Ian Poulter saying: "Ours are keeping us nice and dry."
Poulter had been in the third European pairing to take to the course, teaming up with Ross Fisher to take on Tiger Woods – who wore only a sleeveless sweater despite the conditions – and Steve Stricker. Poulter, being an Englishman, was unpeturbed by the rain.
"I truly think it's an amazing experience to be able to be out there to tee off under those conditions," he said. "It is difficult getting your ball on the tee but I tell you what, it's an experience you'll remember forever."
Two thousand fans clustered around the first tee and home players were greeted by the now traditional European chant of "Ole, ole, ole."
The day wore on with expectations of a re-start fading as greenkeepers struggled to sweep away the water. But finally the players returned at 5pm – and there was even a glimpse of sun as battle resumed.
But it will be a sleepless night for officials, and most of Wales, as they wait nervously for a second chance to show off their pride and joy. And be warned: Ryder Cup meteorologist Mike McClellan has raised the prospect of another delay, with fog forecast for this morning.
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