Notebook: Who reigned in the rain on Wednesday?
Chris DiMarco had his game face on, and David Toms smiled as he collected some loot. Plus, Ryder Cup officials remain optimistic that the event can start and finish on time, the Irish players were keen to get on the course, and more.
PGA.com news services
September 20, 2006
STRAFFAN, Ireland -- Talk about taking lemons and making lemonade.
With the weather at the K Club so nasty on Wednesday morning, U.S. Captain Tom Lehman felt that conducting a normal practice session was not only impractical but also potentially detrimental to his players.
So when the players finally took the course, Lehman fulfilled a prediction he made in February by creating what was believed to be the first "twelvesome" game in Ryder Cup history, with his entire team playing nine holes but focusing almost exclusively on their short games.
It was quite a scene, the 12 Americans and their caddies on the same green, all dressed in black rain suits.
Each player put $100 into the pot on each hole, and formed teams for an alternate-shot match that started within about pitching-wedge range except on the par 3s. In case of a tie, there was a chip-off on each hole to determine the winner.
Verplank and David Toms were formidable, although don't read too much into that pairing.
Verplank won a chip-off on the third by pitching from a knoll beyond the green, over a bunker to within a foot. On the next hole, the par-5 fourth, the players started from 240 yards away, and Woods, Furyk and Brett Wetterich were the only players to reach in two. No matter: Toms chipped in for eagle and the other guys missed their putts.
The drama came at the par-4 seventh, a peninsula green.
Not only did Lehman have them stop short of the pond, they had to skip the ball off the water and over the rocks rimming the green, similar to a tradition during practice at the Masters.
Verplank hit a masterful shot that skipped off the water, over the rocks and banged hard enough into the slight slope that it rolled about 20 feet away from the pin. J.J. Henry and Zach Johnson hit shots that plopped and sank. Chad Campbell was last to hit, and he skipped it over and up to within 3 feet. Wetterich, his partner, knocked in the putt with the entire team watching.
HIS GAME FACE WAS ON: Chris DiMarco gets into the Ryder Cup, even in practice.
He won a chip-off from the bunker on No. 8 by blasting out to 15 feet, while Brett Wetterich left his in the sand. It must have been the first skin for DiMarco, because he instinctively raised and shook his fist, looking at the fans for some cheers, not realizing they didn't care.
But there was banter along the way, even with the caddies.
Mike "Fluff" Cowan was walking to the eighth tee when he spotted an Irish teenager wearing a New York Yankees cap. Cowan has roots in New England, and he couldn't resist.
"Name me one player on the New York Yankees. Just one," he challenged him.
The kid shrugged his shoulder and Cowan walked away in mock disgust until the kid returned the challenge.
"Name me a Kerry footballer," he said.
"Ian Coughlin," Cowan replied, choosing two common names from this part of the world.
"We took a day that could have been not a whole lot of fun out there -- grinding it out, putting for pars and bogeys and not making very many birdies -- to having a good time," Toms said. "That's what we've been stressing to each other. Enjoy the competition, and I thought we did some things where the fans seemed to be enjoying what we were doing.
"Plus, I won some money," Toms said. "So it was good."
STILL ON SCHEDULE: Ryder Cup officials remain optimistic about completing the contest on schedule despite the bad weather -- and a forecast of more to come.
European Tour Executive Director George O'Grady admitted that extending the contest into Monday was always a possibility, but added: "We do not envisage that at the moment.
"We have time up our sleeve when Sunday comes. I think this is a one-off today."
Any delay to play would make it difficult to complete foursomes and fourballs on each of the first two days, but with Sunday comprising only 12 singles, there is an opportunity then to make up for lost time.
"We want to play if the golf course is playable, and by that we mean balls stationary on the greens," he explained. "We have had contingencies for Monday built right in from the beginning, but we are not considering that at the moment."
One issue certainly being considered is whether preferred lies -- also known as 'lift, clean and place' -- will be necessary when play gets underway on Friday.
"The situation will be decided by Chief Referee Andy McFee, but in total agreement with the two captains," O'Grady said. "The course is immaculate, but very, very wet. We will resist the temptation as far as we possibly can, but we would if we had to."
Asked whether it would be necessary due to the wet conditions, Tiger Woods said: "Well, I hope we play. Hopefully this thing starts on time.
"If and when it does, I think we are probably going to have to because we played [Tuesday] and we were getting mud balls," he added. "A lot more rain has fallen since then and more is going to fall before we tee it up on Friday."
TO PLAY OR NOT TO PLAY: European Captain Ian Woosnam gave his team the option to play or not as gusting winds continued throughout the day on Wednesday, but was glad they all agreed to head out onto the course.
"I can understand a lot of guys might not want to go out and ruin their swings," said Woosnam. "But this might be the calmest day for a while.
"One of the main reasons we came out is that 45,000 people had paid a lot of money to come and watch so I thought it was important we went at least to the practice ground, even if it was to just hit a few shots," he added. "I gave them the option and they all stepped up to the mark and I am very pleased with that. As a PR thing, for us it was good to get out and sign a few autographs at least and show our face."
"The great thing about today was that the European team, led by the Irish players, were keen to play," O'Grady added. "They felt if the public were coming in it was their responsibility to play. We did not have to ask players to do anything at all."
Copyright 2006 PA Sport and Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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