If Celtic Manor becomes flooded in the first week in June, then imagine what could happen in the first week of October. Never mind the Gortex, it is frogmen uniforms the American Ryder Cup team should consider decking out in stars and stripes.
Nick Faldo's infamous "bring your waterproofs" comment at last year's closing ceremony was inevitably revisited in the locker rooms here yesterday as the heavens opened and the Wales Open closed for business. In all, nearly six-and-a-half hours were lost because of the heavy rains and as the green-keeping staff set about clearing the fairways of huge puddles and repairing washed-out bunkers it was impossible not to speculate about the conditions in 16 months' time when the most-watched event in golf comes to Newport.
Last night the organisers were trying to utilise the hours of summer light to complete the third round of this tournament. Of course, at the Ryder Cup there will be no such luxury; well, no summer light anyway. In fact, even if the Weather Gods so smile on the Manor the schedule contains very little slack, particularly if the matches go to the last green. It would not take much to push the biennial spectacular into a Monday finish. Although during this grim scene the word "Tuesday" was even being mentioned.
In fairness, Wales did suffer freakish weather in yesterday's early hours that lasted all the way through to midday. Some 32mm of rain fell between 2.30am and 6am and then another 15mm thereafter. "It is very, very unusual to get that amount in such a short period of time," said Jim McKenzie, the Celtic Manor's director of golf. "We are actually very chuffed that we managed to go from unplayable to playable within just one hour of the rain stopping. In the past it would have taken five or six hours. It is testimony to all the drainage work we did over the winter."
McKenzie confirmed that these improvements will continue right up until the match and expressed optimism about the Ryder Cup completing on time. "It will be easier to get play restarted because today we had to cater for 70 players on the course," he said. "Matchplay is easier to manage and in the last few years October here has been very dry."
Still, the fact that in just its second year of hosting the Wales Open the Twenty10 course had experienced its second delay (last year it was fog) was just bound to set off the whisperers. And so it should have. For nobody but the money men can offer any logical reason why the Ryder Cup should be hosted so late in the year – in a valley, of all things. Apart from their diligent updating of the drainage system, then all Celtic Manor and the European Tour can do is pray.
What Corey Pavin, the American captain, truly made of it all as he tried to improve his backmarker position yesterday remained unknown, although perhaps it is telling that he is returning in October for another, probably more relevant, reconnaissance mission. By then he expects the formation of his captaincy philosophy to be well underway.
He will not just be adopting the Paul Azinger blueprint which drew so many plaudits in Kentucky last September. "What Zinger did, Zinger did and what I'll do, I'll do," said Pavin. "I'm going to have my own style." Nevertheless, he will take extensive advice from his predecessor, although he is not about to leave it there.
The player they called "The Bulldog" was an assistant to Tom Lehman at the 2006 match in Dublin and was impressed by his friend's leadership, if not by the top-heavy result. So just like Lehman, Pavin has asked for an audience with John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach. "There are a couple of other coaches from other sports I will consult," revealed Pavin. "I'm also going to talk with CEOs from some of America's big companies, because that sort of person is so used to dealing with people and with making the big decisions." They could also tell him how to float a company. Could be useful here.
Tip of the week
No 4: Plugged-Lie Bunker Shot
This shot is entirely different to a normal bunker shot, with very little finesse required – simply getting the ball out and on the green will suffice. This shot should be played with a sand or lob wedge, as the set-up will reduce the natural bounce of the club and encourage a digging action. Play the ball opposite the right foot (for right-handed golfers) with the weight strongly favouring the left side. With the hands positioned well ahead of the ball, pick the club up steeply with a good shoulder turn. Then hit down hard just behind the ball. If the shot is executed correctly, there should be little or no follow through and the ball should pop up over the bunker lip and on to the green. Remember to dig for glory, don't scoop it out...
Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey
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