Lehman apologises for denying fans chance to see Tiger

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High winds and high dudgeon dominated the second day of Ryder Cup practice here yesterday as between them Mother Nature and the American team contrived to infuriate Irish golf fans. And the awful news for this expectant nation is that it could get even worse.

The weather remains a huge concern as the chance ­ however small ­ exists of spectators being locked out when play gets finally under way tomorrow if the 60mph winds return.

Yesterday, they had a taster of the frustration that may be awaiting them when the K Club gates were locked until 10am as the gales raged, and the event officials, on advice from the police, put into motion their health-and-safety plan.

With the threat of grandstands coming loose ­ or, more likely, tents and other objects being blown around ­ they took no risks in shutting the Palmer Course until the gusts calmed down. This action led to hours of queues to board the buses to the Co Kildare club at the two park-and-ride sites.

If that was not bad enough for the 45,000 fans who had paid up to £400 on the black market for the preview day, then the United States team's reaction to it only exacerbated the situation. After Ian Woosnam had sent out his European team to play a full nine holes "because the fans came to see them", Tom Lehman committed something of a PR calamity by sending his 12 players out in one group, to play nine holes of "pitch and putt" .

This involved them not teeing off but instead walking up to within 150 yards of each green and playing from there. The many supporters who had stayed patiently waiting, freezing and windswept, in the stands and on their feet behind the tee boxes were therefore denied seeing the world No 1 Tiger Woods and co driving off.

And so the boos rang out down the first hole and from thereon for the next seven holes, apart from on the two par-threes.

One furious Irishman summed up the crowd's anger on the fifth hole when shouting out: "You're a disgrace. You have no regard for the fans."

But still the Americans persisted, not relenting until the last hole, the ninth, when they deemed to play the par-four in its entirety. The American captain was wise enough to issue an apology.

"It was a mistake," Lehman said. "We should have hit a tee shot at least on the first hole to satisfy all those fans waiting. I apologise."

However, the damage had already been done.

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