Sport: Do that rain dance]

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The Independent Online
AH, THE Open Golf, four of the couch potato's happiest days of the year. There's a warm glow to the BBC's coverage these days, an unashamedly cosy, nostalgic air that permeates every camera shot, every elderly anecdote from every elderly commentator. You just fall under Peter Alliss's devilish spell and spend the entire weekend in a trance of missed putts, fluffed drives and Seve Ballesteros cocking it up again. Who needs flotation tanks?

And yet when I was watching on Thursday, I couldn't help feeling that something important was missing. You know that sensation, that dark presentiment of loss that afflicts thousands of us every other Sunday when David Gower hasn't been picked again. This time, though, I couldn't work out what it was. Alliss was there, saying 'Hello' to every long putt that wriggled in, and various Americans in their dotage were making arcane jokes about Walter Hagen. My God, Greg Norman had even scored a six at the first. All was surely as it should be. So I went off for a brief raid on the fridge, and when I returned, I realised what the problem was. Rain. Where was it?

In fact, it was outside my window, and virtually everywhere else in the country, but at Sandwich, golfers of all nations were frolicking around the course untouched by moisture of any description. The heavens opened briefly at about lunchtime, but according to the BBC's coverage, only Nick Faldo seemed to get wet. Otherwise there wasn't a whisper of rain. What was going on?

For in this wettest and drabbest of summers, none of the various pillars of the British sporting season have been affected even remotely by poor weather. The gales and tornadoes that we have long been accustomed to simply haven't happened. Wimbledon lost not a single minute to the weather: so serious was the situation that important matches were actually beginning on time, which really mucked up people's schedules. The Lord's Test match, which traditionally marks the end of summer (and sometimes the beginning of a new Ice Age), received barely a molecule of unscheduled wetness, let alone the sundry cats and dogs that are usually deposited upon its hallowed grass.

Could this run of poor luck continue? Well, against all expectations it has, and now we're faced with an Open Golf championship without even a hint of a freak hailstorm in sight.

This is worrying, because rain is at the very centre of British sporting achievement. Look at all those Opens won in absolutely filthy weather by Brits, while all the Americans looked miserable and dreamed of California. Think of all the Test matches saved courtesy of a timely downpour, and of all those football matches where our lack of basic skill was happily nullified by virtually unplayable conditions.

And how about Silverstone last weekend? The clouds threatened, but the rain never came. If it had poured, all those loonies who had driven up at three in the morning to get the mudpatch with the best view would have been overflowing with Dunkirk spirit, and Alain Prost's hatred of rain might have made it a rather more interesting race to watch. Who knows, Damon Hill's hilarious exploding engine - quite a coincidence, that - might even have kept going for the duration if Prost had been out of the hunt. Not that Prost had anything to do with that curious incident. Good Lord no.

So if we wish to see a British winner this weekend, or indeed at any time this summer, the course is clear. Rain dances should begin now. Michael Fish, it's up to you.