Ryder Cup Logo Ryder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
Story Image With all of his U.S. teammates looking on, Zach Johnson tries to skip a ball across the pond on the seventh hole during Wednesday's abbreviated practice session at the K Club. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weather expected, team responses not so

The wicked weather that hit the K Club on Wednesday was not totally unexpected. We are in Ireland, after all. However, the manner in which each team chose to handle the 40-mph winds and constant rain and drizzle was not what you would call ordinary.

T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor
September 20, 2006

STRAFFAN, Ireland -- With dreadful weather conditions that included 40-mph winds and whipping rain that came down sideways and in sheets during the early morning hours, the second practice session for the 2006 Ryder Cup at The K Club was delayed for three hours and 45 minutes.

The course was open for spectators -- expected to reach 40,000 on Wednesday -- at 10 a.m. local time and the course was open for play at 11:15 a.m. Though the brutal conditions subsided, there was still a strong wind and a steady drizzle when the players hit the range.

The weather was expected on Wednesday, but the style in which the U.S. and European Ryder Cup teams elected to practice was not.

European captain Ian Woosnam sent his players out for nine holes in a modified foursomes format, or alternate-shot. He had each of his players hit a tee shot and then play off their partner's ball for the next shot. He also followed a structured method in testing out potential pairings once the matches begin on Friday with the following pairings: Jose Maria Olazabal/Robert Karlsson; Sergio Garcia/Luke Donald; Darren Clarke/Lee Westwood; Paul Casey/David Howell; Padraig Harrington/Colin Montgomerie; and Henrik Stenson/Paul McGinley.

Meanwhile, U.S. captain Tom Lehman decided his team should focus on short shots as opposed to altering their full swing to compensate for the wind. The Americans essentially played as a 12-some over nine holes, hitting shots from mostly 150 yards in and even performed trick-shots, like skipping a ball over the water at No. 7.

"I think we took a day that could have been not a whole lot of fun out there grinding, 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 is enjoy the competition, go out there, and I think we did some things where the fans seemed to be enjoying what we were doing."

The only time the Americans teed off was at No. 9, their last hole of the day.

"I think one of the reasons was they [spectators] were around each tee box and I think they wanted, if nothing else, to watch Tiger hit a tee shot," Toms said. "That's why we did that on the last hole."

Under current conditions, which have left the course incredibly soft and long, play might typically be called for the day. However, Woosnam felt it was important for his team to take to the course in respect to all the fans who trudged out despite the weather.

"One of the main reasons we came out, as well, is you've got 40,000 people here, paid a lot of money and want to see the golfers," he said. "I thought it was important we came out to the practice ground, even if we hit some balls and sign some autographs and maybe just play a few holes. But the lads are going to play nine holes now in foursomes and just going to see what it's like."

Lehman believes the weather delay was a good thing for his team.

"It's actually been a very good day for us, maybe exactly what our team needed," he said. "We had plans to be out early at 7:30 playing again today, and I was up at 6 o'clock in the cart driving around the golf course and realized very quickly it was it was blowing. Nobody was going to have any fun playing golf at 7:30 in that mess.

"Then not only that, when they decided to keep spectators off the course until later, it was a no-brainer so I sent everyone back to bed and we all slept in, had a great team meeting and decided what our plan of action was going to be for the afternoon, so it's basically been a very good day for us," he added.

Lehman, like Woosnam, felt that sending his team out on the course was the proper thing to do for the fans that came out. But, he said, the Americans were going to be spending most of their time working on their respective short games, rather than throwing off their tempo with longer shots.

"We wanted to let them see the American team play some golf today, so we decided to get on the course and just play a bit of a game, mostly from 150 yards on in," Lehman said.

The weather isn't expected to get much better as the week wears on. Woosnam, hoping to lead the Europeans to its third straight win and fifth out of the last six, believes inclement weather could help his squad.

"I think it's favorable for us because we've played much more in these conditions than what the Americans would," Woosnam said. "The air is much heavier over here. When the ball moves, whether you hit a slice or a draw, it moves twice as much as it does in America."

Tiger Woods, for one, wasn't buying into the theory that suggests the bad weather will give the Europeans an edge.

"I think we've all played in weather like this," Woods said. "We've all played in bad weather all around the world. So, that's not anything new. I certainly have, and all of the guys who have been in golf, you've got to play through conditions like this. It's all about quality of ball-striking, controlling your flight. That's something all these guys can do. Obiviously if they couldn't do that, they wouldn't be on this team."

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