Phil Mickelson and the other three players in the Ryder Cup's opening match only got through six holes before play was halted. (Getty Images)
An American break in the weather?
The European players pride themselves on their ability to thrive in adverse weather but, Steve Eubanks points out, Friday's big rain delay might wind up benefiting the Americans in the long run.
By Steve Eubanks, Special to RYDERCUP.com
NEWPORT, Wales -- To the surprise of exactly no one, weather was a game-changer on Friday. European Captain Colin Montgomerie had hoped for inclement weather and got his wish, although no one expected the kind of gullywasher that blew through Wales and left Celtic Manor looking like an aquatic park.
Play started at 7:45 a.m. and was suspended at 9:45, and could have been called an hour earlier. So saturated was the Twenty Ten Course that Judy Rankin remarked off-air that she’d seen a drowned frog.
“This morning was pretty rough, I think everybody would admit that,” European Tour Chief Referee John Paramour said. “But the players were keen to get going, so we did. It kind of deteriorated to such an extent that I contacted both captains and said, ‘Gentlemen, what do you think?’ By then it was clear that conditions were not improving, so everyone came to the agreement to suspend play.”
Gee, it rains in Wales. And in other breaking news, it gets really, really cold in Alaska.
Monty always expected a slog. The Euros view themselves more as Aquaman than Superman, so, just like the Packers love it when it snows at Lambeau, the European team believed that bad weather would turn things to their advantage.
Ryder Cup teams have thought that way for years. At Kiawah Island, the no-seeums (tiny gnats native to the South that gravitate to the nose and eyes) were horrendous. The first day of practice, Chip Beck stood on the practice tee and said, “You gotta love these gnats!”
When Fred Couples asked what that meant, Beck said, “The Europeans are going to hate them!”
Embrace the bugs became a witty rallying cry for that team. Monty had hoped that rain would be his no-seeum. What he didn’t expect was Celtic Manor to flood like a Mississippi cotton field.
“Both captains were offered an opportunity to say what they felt about the conditions out there, and yes, I wanted to stay on,” Montgomerie said. “But at the same time, there was nothing we could do.”
The Americans benefited most from the stoppage. In addition to allowing them to regroup after being down early in three of the four matches, their rain gear leaked and their clothes were soaked. The opportunity to get dry and warm, and to think through the rest of their rounds should have been a big help.
“I haven't really had to say much to (the team),” U.S. Captain Corey Pavin said. “They are all relaxed and just sitting around and like I said, just talking and just waiting. Some are taking little naps and relaxing.”
That is exactly the atmosphere Pavin wants, and one he could only get through a rain delay. The first-tee nerves are over, the rookies are on the course, and no team is so far down that they feel out of it.
“We just need to relax and keep playing golf,” said Bubba Watson, who with his partner Jeff Overton went into the break with a 2-up lead after two holes. “You know, when Jeff stood on the tee, I went to the other side because I’m left-handed. I looked up and saw USA on his back, and I knew that this is it. This is my dream come true.”
He will have to wait a little longer for that dream to continue. Rain was still peppering the ground at the mid-afternoon deadline for play to resume in order, most everyone believed, for the matches to finish on Sunday. So if the rain stops and the greens and fairways are soft, the advantage turns in the Americans’ favor.
Rain might have been the X factor that Monty wanted, but with the positive attitude the Americans are showing despite their early deficit, the suspension in play is exactly what Team USA needs.