It was slow, but Yanks now have the big mo

WITH the golf shots at a bare minimum and Mother Nature a dominating winner on the first day of the 38th Ryder Cup matches, there was nonetheless a desperate search for storylines to satisfy our appetite for this biennial event.

The first order of business was to consider this: Which shut down quicker, Terence Matthews’ interviews extolling the virtues of Celtic Manor, or the Wales tourism bureau’s office hours? Surely it was a miserable day on those fronts, though it could be argued that it was even worse for those who handle public relations for the PGA of America.

After all, how do you explain the time, energy, and money put into a two-year run-up, then come all the way to Wales in October and discover your waterproofs aren’t up to the task?

“We were disappointed with the performance (of our waterproofs),” said US captain Corey Pavin.

Asrasuming the European PGA merchandisers did not offer a healthy discount to their American brethren, it proves on the one hand that the economic woes most of us are experiencing are but a rumour to these Ryder Cup folks. But it speaks volumes to a serious slip-up by an organisation that revolves around its ability to cash in on this biennial competition.

What in the name of Samuel Ryder is wrong with these folks? Did they not listen to Nick Faldo at the last Ryder Cup, when at the closing ceremonies in Kentucky he said: “See you in Wales. Bring your waterproofs.”

Looking back, it was the only accurate call Faldo made then.

With Celtic Manor unplayable from the outset yesterday, it can be argued that officials should not have even set the competition in motion. Not with it appearing as if the Usk River had spilled into the fairways. Not with officials choosing to play lift, clean, and place (what’s next, mulligans? Moving up to the red tees?). Not with players forced to move balls from the fairways and into rough to escape casual water.

“This morning it was pretty rough. I think everybody would admit that,” said John Paramor, chief referee of the European Tour. “But all the players were keen to get going, so we did.”

Reminded again of Faldo’s warning about Wales in October, the rebuttal of European Tour commissioner George O’Grady comes to mind. “(Celtic Manor) is in a valley. It does rain, and you’ve got to look at these things with a bit of humour.”

That much of the humour was directed toward the Americans’ waterproofs didn’t seem to bother England’s Ian Poulter. “Ours are keeping us nice and dry, that’s all I’m going to say.”

Disconcerting that it was to see Lee Westwood be extended a free drop from a plugged lie in a bunker at the fourth – casual water was cited so that he went from an impossible shot to an easy one – and unbearable that it was to sit for some seven hours for play to resume, it was pure joy to see the dinner hour arrive with players back on the course. Even better news for the USA was this: putts were falling and the momentum turned.

Granted, things could change yet again when the four fourball matches conclude this morning, but dinner had to taste better for the Americans than for the Europeans. After all, of the 21 birdies made, 14 belonged to those wearing inferior waterproofs.

Particularly pleasing to Pavin has to be the play of his two best players and team leaders, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Though scratchy at times, Woods appeared in decent form as he and Steve Stricker were all square with Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher through nine. As for Mickelson, from seemingly in a fog the first six holes, the lefthander caught fire and made three straight birdies starting at the par 5 ninth, though Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer hold a 1 up lead.

It’s the only match in which the Americans trail, but truthfully, with so much still to go, their biggest gain thus far has been in wardrobe.

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