All eyes on the skies with rain forecast this week
If Monday was an indication, players and spectators alike had better bring along their rain gear because it appears that Mother Nature will not be in a nice mood when the 2006 Ryder Cup commences on Friday.
T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor
September 18, 2006
STRAFFAN, Ireland -- The K Club certainly didn't have the luck of the Irish on Monday. On a day where both the U.S. and European Ryder Cup teams arrived for the 36th edition of the biennial matches, torrential rain hammered the Emerald Isle, creating pools of water on the course and around the practice areas.
Luckily for both sides, no practice sessions were scheduled, although Stewart Cink and Paul McGinley could be found on the range hitting balls late in the day.
As for the rest of the week, rain is in the forecast throughout. Many believe that will play into the hands of the Europeans, who are more accustomed to the wet, rainy conditions than their American counterparts.
"If it gets very wet and windy, which I believe the forecast is, we never know what the weather is going to be like here," said Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, "the experience of playing in tournaments here before where you know how the course is going to play, how certain holes are going to play more difficult than what they normally would, those conditions can only benefit the Europeans. It might not be a huge advantage, but again, it's a small advantage that we might need."
The U.S. Team, led by captain Tom Lehman, arrived in Dublin at noon on Monday, roughly three hours later than their scheduled arrival.
"We brought more than our share of luggage, which was the reason for the delay," said Lehman, who is hoping to guide the Americans to their first win since 1999 at the Country Club in Brookline. "I think we were trying to put together a puzzle, trying to fit all the stuff inside the plane. You could see the guys outside the plane in the windows going, 'How are we going to get all this stuff in?' but they managed to do it."
European Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam, a native of Wales, greeted the Americans at Dublin Airport. The Welshman his hoping to lead the Europeans to their third-straight Ryder Cup victory and fifth win in the last six matches.
For arguably the first time in the history of golf's most prestigious team event, Europe will enter as the favorite. However, Woosnam isn't keen on his team believing they're the favorites.
"I don't want them to feel that we're favorites at all," he said. "I want to feel like we're going to get back in that team room and feel like we're still the underdogs. I still think it's going to go down to the wire. A lot of people said their team [U.S.] is one of the weakest they have ever had and I just don't agree with that. The guys that are on that team deserve to be on it."
That would include four rather unheralded rookies -- Vaughn Taylor, J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich -- who made the U.S. team's top 10 on points.
"You know what rookies are like," Woosnam said, "they come out and they have got nothing to prove and the only thing they can do is prove what they are, that they are great players. I think it's going to be a very close contest, but as captain, you know, I'm excited about it."
Two weeks after the PGA Championship concluded and the team was in place, Lehman managed to round up all 12 of his players for a two-day trip to Ireland for practice and bonding, which he believes will go a long way this week.
"The little trip we took earlier in the month I think was really beneficial and I think everybody is comfortable with the surroundings and comfortable with the golf course and comfortable with the hotel and a bit like a homecoming, so it's great to be here," Lehman said.
Any kind of comfort should bode well for the Americans. The last time the matches were played -- 2004 at Oakland Hills, just outside Detroit -- the Americans absorbed a record thumping, 18.5-9.5, their most lopsided loss in Ryder Cup history.
Both teams will spend the next three days practicing before the matches commence on Friday morning.
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