Tenacious Tiger still swinging in the rain

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The Independent Online

The golf game of Tiger Woods these days is difficult to predict.

It is not going through quite as deep a depression as the low which swung over the Usk Valley and ripped more than seven hours out of play on the opening day of the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor.

But Woods, who had to rely on a captain's pick to make the trip to Celtic Manor, is not happy with his lot.

He is fighting with his swing, going through the mechanics on each shot. Are the shoulders in the right position? How steep is the downswing? Thinking about the game, rather than letting it flow naturally as he did when he was winning majors by 12 and eight shots.

But he is still the feistiest of competitors.

And that is why he walked into the clubhouse with partner Steve Stricker in the Welsh gloaming all square with Europe's Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher after 10 holes of an interrupted fourballs.

Two birdies from Woods, both on par fives, as well as an eight-foot clutch putt rolled in at the par-four fourth for a half, were crucial.

And while Stricker weighed in with a 25-foot putt for a birdie at the eighth, it was Poulter's brilliant 20-foot putt for a birdie at the 10th which ensured their particular duel restarts on equal terms.

Analysis of any golfer's game, however, was almost immaterial on a day when there was water, water everywhere and not a putt to sink, at least not between the hours of 9.44am and 5pm when play was suspended with the rain coming down in stair-rods.

Whoever's idea it was to hold golf's most prestigious team event in Wales in October, a week later than the event is usually held, had a lot of explaining to do on the most frustrating of days.

The same could be said for the American manufacturer of the United States team's waterproof gear, ironically named Sun Mountain, who received just about the worst publicity in the history of wet-proof golf gear when Woods and co. complained that their suits were simply not working as they should.

The Americans can put a man on the moon but they cannot stay dry on the golf course.

A delegation was duly dispatched to the merchandising marquee and 20 waterproof suits were purchased at £200 each from ProQuip - the supplier keeping the Europeans dry.

"We were disappointed with the performance of them, and you know, we just fixed it," said United States captain Corey Pavin. "They were not doing what we wanted them to do so we went out and bought some more waterproofs."

One up to Europe. A million or so doubtless on ProQuip's profits.

We are used to slate-grey days and delays at Wimbledon and Lord's, but not since the first morning at Valderrama in 1997, when the Spanish heavens opened with a monsoon which turned the bunkers into duck ponds, has the Ryder Cup been so afflicted by the weather.

What did the players do in the rain break? The Americans, according to Pavin, ate, slept and watched TV. The answer from the Europeans was either funny or sad depending on your point of view.

In the Europe team room they could be found playing 'Tiger Woods 2011' on the Playstation. Apparently, Luke Donald was actually playing his own version, presumably 'Luke Donald 2011'.

"It's quite funny up there," admitted Europe's Martin Kaymer.

Try telling that to the 45,000 spectators who squelched into this picturesque venue and tried manfully to generate the atmosphere we have become accustomed to in these matches.

They put a pretty brave face on it, it should be noted, whooping and hollering in trademark Ryder Cup fashion and generating a half-decent atmosphere. Not quite the electricity of past matches, perhaps, but then water and electricity do not often go together.

At which point we should mention the squeegee men, the Celtic Manor groundsmen who sponged away the water on the greens, allowing a couple of hours play at the end of the day which gives the match, now reduced to four sessions, a chance of finishing on time on Sunday evening.

"Let's hope we don't talk about the weather in Wales, only the result," said Europe captain Colin Montgomerie.

Europe have to hope Woods does not discover his 'A' game.