There was less tweeting and twittering in the aviary at London Zoo yesterday than in the European team room at Celtic Manor.
Avid micro-bloggers Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy filled the long rain delay by updating followers on what they and their team-mates were up to, which in the case of Padraig Harrington was not very much. Both men posted a photograph of Harrington lying on the floor seemingly fast asleep, his head resting on a holdall. Harrington, the qualified accountant from Dublin, evidently knows more about economics than ergonomics. "Paddy Harrington relaxing in the changing room. Pure class," tweeted Poulter.
Pure class? It was a sight to make an osteopath wince. This is the first Ryder Cup in the age of mass-Twittering, a fact acknowledged by both team captains, Colin Montgomerie and Corey Pavin, who earlier this week issued their men with a blanket ban, only for the former to relax it following a team meeting said to be entirely cordial. Instead, Montgomerie asked his players to Twitter with care and to respect each other's privacy. Whether these criteria were met by the picture of Harrington having a kip is open to question, but there was no rolling thunder reported in the Newport area yesterday, so it is thought that Europe's famously volatile captain was unperturbed.
Nor was there anything for him to worry about in the rest of the Twittering, although Poulter did reveal an attempt to sabotage the captain's address at Thursday's opening ceremony, suggesting that Lee Westwood had tried to make an unwitting accomplice of Paul McGinley: "Joke of the day. Westwood set McGinleys iPhone alarm to go off at 16.42 half way thru Montys speech. u should have seen the panic. Hilarious."
Clearly, Twitter has changed the rules of engagement between player and fan, arguably to the benefit of both in an era when multi-millionaire sportsmen are insulated from their public. The sanctity of the dressing room used to be absolute, the only exception being in certain American team sports, where at prescribed times the media were and still are given more or less unfettered access to the locker room. This reporter was once allowed into the Chicago Bulls locker room with a female colleague. There were very tall, very naked men everywhere. She didn't know where not to look.
That sanctity is now much diminished, even in more cloistered sports, thanks to Twitter. Darren Clarke yesterday tried to apply the old dictum that what happens in the team room stays in the team room, declining to tell a Sky Sports interviewer details of the players' phone conversation with European golf's talisman, the cancer-stricken Seve Ballesteros. But these days, what happens in the team room goes straight on to Twitter. Scarcely had Clarke attempted to preserve the air of mystique than a photograph was tweeted of McIlroy and Ross Fisher playing a golf video game, which didn't need to be an official secret, but was nevertheless a spectacle that would once have remained behind closed doors. Appropriately enough it was the official Tiger Woods video game.
Whatever, while Harrington slept, Fisher played games and McIlroy and Poulter tweeted tirelessly, and Graeme McDowell chipped in (he revealed he spent the afternoon doing much the same as Harrington), there were some 45,000 other damp souls with time on their hands, preferably to be spent under cover. This was good news for the retailers in the merchandising tent, who flogged knitwear as if it was going out of fashion, which arguably some of it was, and were not fazed on being confronted by representatives of the US team, who had belatedly discovered that their waterproofs were not quite up to the Usk valley in October.
For those unwilling to queue for the merchandising tent – a queue which at one point was the length of a longish par four – there were other pleasures available in the adjacent bar. If the players noticed a distinct increase in the volume of their support when play eventually resumed at 5pm, after a suspension of more than seven hours, several thousand pints of Guinness were doubtless largely responsible. As for the very object of all this fuss and upheaval, the handsome little Ryder Cup itself, it stood on a table in a tent operated by an enterprising company called Capture The Event, which charged punters £8 for a photograph with the trophy. There was no shortage of takers. But also capturing the event was Europe's most inveterate Twitterer. "That 1st tee is truly the most incredible experience ever, the buzz from the crowd shakes thru your body with so much electricity. I love it," tweeted Poulter.
Europe's best tweets
"Just have to say our waterproofs are performing very well!"
"That 1st tee is truly the most incredible experience ever, the buzz from the crowd shakes thru your body with so much electricity. I love it."
"Little bit of a damp morning so far!!!! Good energy in the European camp though. Decision at noon. No play before 1245. Bring on the sun."
"The team are buzzing, great start to the day. Lets get back out there & play some golf. Come on."