Three days before the sleek stars of the European and United States golf teams began their Ryder Cup battle at Celtic Manor, the haggard and bedraggled members of the media – who could be persuaded from their beds at around 5am on Tuesday morning – gathered to contest the Wryter Cup.
For many years, those writers and photographers covering the big event are given this chance to represent their respective continents in golfing action of a somewhat less accomplished kind.
Sponsored by Rolex, the 20-a-side tournament was not allowed to disfigure the pristine fairways of the Twenty Ten course. It took place on the Roman Road, the first course to be built on the Celtic Manor complex and well able to withstand an uncultured assault.
Not that it really mattered where we were playing because we could hardly see a thing through thick fog and accompanying drizzle.
The format was a shotgun start and an individual Stableford with the best 10 scores of each team to count. Each European pair played with an American pair. I was partnered by my son James, the golf correspondent of this parish, and we played with Alex Micelli, of Virginia, and Dave Shedlowski, of Columbus, Ohio.
After a disgracefully early but hearty breakfast we climbed aboard our buggies and followed the guide, thoughtfully provided by our organisers to lead us through the fog, to our starting holes.
We were assigned the fifth, which is an uphill par four, and as we stood at the tee staring at the grey I was questioned about where the hell we were going since I had played the course several times, though not for at least five years. I said that I thought the fairway swung slightly to the left, which it did, but we found only two of the four balls.
It was blind man's golf on the next hole too, and trudging through the thick and wet rough in search of balls our socks were so awash it was like paddling. On the seventh hole (our third) I was convinced that the drive was meant to be left of centre, which is exactly where I hit. By this time the others were wary of taking any more advice from me which is just as well. I was thinking of the wrong hole so they were on the fairway and mine was in so much trouble it wasn't worth looking for.
Playing with first-time visitors to my country, I was very conscious that they hadn't seen anything of it yet, so I reassured them that it wasn't always this bad. In order to lift their spirits I sang the first line of that lovely song from the musical Annie: "The sun will come out tomorrow..."
Alex asked dryly: "Is that the Welsh national anthem?"
Thankfully, the sun did comeout later by which time Alex and Dave, who play off seven andeight respectively, were scoringat a steady rate. James wasn't doing badly but I'm afraid I was struggling.
Then James's mobile rang, as did those of several others on the European team. National newspaper sports desks were coming up with their usual brilliant ideas they wanted their writers to chase up.
James had to depart with three holes still to play as did at least five others. Now, I'm not making excuses but the Americans, who won by 289 points to 270, weren't bothered by their sports desks because it was night time back home and they all managed to complete their rounds.
Alex and Dave managed 26 points each, which wasn't bad under the conditions, and I contributed a miserable 16. But, at least, we braved the elements and came back smiling. And sponsors Rolex were excellent hosts and even supplied a goodie bag.
There were rumours that they were going to give us a Rolex watch each. Sadly, this did not turn out to be the case but they did tell us the correct time when we came off the 18th hole.
Tip of the week
No 69: Aggressive putting
"I am coming up short all the time on those 'must-make' putts." Does that sound familiar?
Here is a great tip to make you more aggressive on those putts which you should be holing.
Find a straight putt and place a ball about six feet from the hole on a practice putting green.
Set up to the ball as normal with your putter aiming at the hole.
Push in two long tees either side of the ball square to your putter face – i.e. just narrower than the width of the putter. Now have a putt at the hole.
The tees will stop your putter face immediately at impact, so you must accelerate into the ball.
This will make you a much more positive putter and more confident on those putts inside six feet.
Simon Iliffe is head professional at Bramley Golf Club, Surrey. www.theshortgame.co.ukReuse content