Sunday October 3rd - 10am
More rain delays mean a Monday finish, fans in for a mud bath...
What promised to be an enthralling final day’s play at Celtic Manor has begun once again with disappointment. From about 1am early this morning, the rain fell heavily in South East Wales without a break, saturating the 2010 course to its limits.
It came as no surprise then that the start of play has been delayed. The layout resembles more of a swamp than a golf course right now. But as I type, the rain has in fact stopped and the forecast is for the heavy stuff to stay away for the rest of today and Monday.
Every single one of the 160 green staff are out in force this morning pushing the surface water away into the multi-million pound drainage system installed especially for the 2010 Ryder Cup. Without this being in place, the tournament would have been over on Friday lunchtime after the first bout of heavy rain.
For me, there should be more of a concern over the spectator walkways than the condition of the golf course itself. I’ve already seen one male fan, admittedly wearing trainers, slide down one of the slopes on his backside after his feet gave way in the muddy grass on Friday. Now that the viewing spots are even more slippery, the safety of the spectators needs to be addressed with possible improvements made before they descend on mass, potentially at 11am depending on what the officials decide in an upcoming announcement.
Organisers have already confirmed that season ticket holders and Sunday ticket holders will have access to Monday’s play. Spare a thought then, for those who braved the elements on Friday to see a mere four hours of golf and at present, are not entitled to a refund. This decision is being reviewed, however, and fans will be made aware of the outcome after the tournament is completed.
Away from the course, the surrounding areas such as the tented village and the tv compound, are underwater in places. Returning to the bus pick-up point last night I was greeted by the site of cars being towed and pushed out of deep and damp depressions. The temporary walkways are more like geysers, as water spurts straight up between the gaps with every step.
I can’t help but feel sympathy towards Sir Terry Matthews. His ambition, determination and dedication realised his dream in bringing the Ryder Cup to Wales. Unfortunately, he’s been let down by the single thing he couldn’t control. It may have been a risk awarding the tournament here with the event pushed back to October to allow for the completion of the farcical Fed Ex Cup, but no one could have predicted the volume and severity of Welsh rain that fell in such a short space of time.
Saturday October 2nd - 8pm
Sunday finish unlikely, Europe down in points but up in momentum...
The second day is over and the 2010 Ryder Cup is still well behind schedule. Any more delays because of weather and a Sunday evening finish is extremely unlikely. The forecast is not good at all tomorrow, everything hinges on whether the predicted storm miraculously changes course or the grounds dry up considerably overnight, neither of which seem likely.
Why is this a big deal? The logistics of a Monday finish are staggering. To provide the necessary security, marshalls, officials etc for an extra day would be a monumental cost to Ryder Cup Europe. Not to mention the anti-climax of the finale of the biggest event on the golfing calendar happening in front of a crowd half the expected size, to a much smaller electronic audience.
But despite the disruption, there was still controversy, scintillating golf and some lighter moments to keep the 50,000 fans entertained on Saturday.
Rickie Fowler impressed on debut but may want to take another look at his rule book when he returns to the States next week. On the fourth hole, the 21-year-old saw the ball of his partner Jim Furyk embedded in the mud next to a path. Rather than lifting and taking relief with Furyk’s ball, he dropped his own ball from his pocket. The rules state that you must start and finish each hole with the same ball and consequently, the American pair forfeited the hole. They did, however, go on to halve the match with a birdie at the last.
Controversy occurred in the first match of session two’s foursomes when caddies decided not to take on board revised pin sheets detailing changes of the hole locations. Why any caddie wouldn’t want the most up-to-date information for their players is beyond me. As a result, the Molinari brothers were hitting to the wrong part of the first green and ended up losing the hole.
A romantic if not surreal moment occurred between Miguel Angel Jimenez and vice-captain Thomas Bjorn when the latter went to kiss the Spaniard after a fabulous birdie, only for Miguel to block the advancing Danish lips with his hands, much to the amusement of the crowd.
If Europe is to regain Samuel Ryder’s trophy, they’ll need to continue the momentum they built up late this evening. Only then will Monty be able to claim golf’s most prestigious prize.
Saturday October 2nd - 1pm
The sun is out and the golf is hot!
With some witty banter and a cheeky smile, I managed to acquire an ‘inside the ropes’ bib from the media centre. As it turned out, this would be the most valuable piece of cloth I ever owned, even if it was only for a few hours.
Being inside the ropes absorbs you in the action. You can’t help but feel like you’re in the way somehow of either the players or the officials but as long as you stick to the permitted route, no-one will question you.
I was prepared to have to scrap for a good vantage point with photographers, tv men, vice captains etc and it proved to be the case. Even inside the ropes, the muddy water squelches over the top of your toes. The course has no where near recovered from yesterday’s rain – all you have to do is take one look at the spectator walkways to see the extent of the damage, which will take months to fully recover.
Watching Tiger so close up, it's clear he doesn’t get as pumped up as he used to. Hi commitment can't be doubted but he refrains from outbursts of emotion. Maybe he’s matured as a human or made a conscious effort to tone it down. Either way, he’s still hitting some sensational golf shots…along with the odd shocking one.
On eighteen, he hooked his three-wood 30 yards left into the cabbage and then duffed his chip into a buggy. Stricker bailed him out on this occasion - it was a partnership that seemed to suit the Americans, both players helping out when the other was in trouble so it was no surprise to see them defeat the all-English pairing of Ian Poulter and an out-of-sorts Ross Fisher.
As the matches drew to a close, it was evident that the McIlroy/McDowell match would be the key. It would decide if Europe would go into the second session one or two points behind. The Northern Irish duo were 1 down with three to play. I was following the Woods match and just before they teed off on the 16th, a ferocious roar echoed around the valley. It was obvious that Rory or G-mac had done something special – as it turned out, the youngster had holed a monster putt for birdie on 17 which eventually earnt them half a point.
The crowds, along with some of their outfits, have been amazing. Looking up on the various hills around the course, you can see vast lines of fans from both sides of the pond. There wasn’t a viewing spot on offer.
I had a debate with a work colleague recently who claimed the viewing experience live on television in the comfort of his living room would be better than actually being at Celtic Manor. You simply can’t make these kind of comments without experiencing the Ryder Cup first hand. Now, I have experienced both and the two aren’t even close. Nothing compares to being here, inside or outside the ropes, watching with your own eyes history being made.
Friday October 1st - 7pm
Play finally starts again...but Europe wishes it hadn't
So after 7 hours 18 minutes of playing the waiting game, the golf finally restarted at 5pm on Friday evening at the Ryder Cup. Going into it, Europe had the advantage in three out of the four matches but at the close of play, the tables had turned and it was the Americans that gained the initiative.
But following the conclusion of the first day's play, the talk was more about the weather and its impact than the golf itself. Chatting with the spectators during the break, it was clear there were mixed feelings about the amount of golf on show during the first day's play. Some were just happy to be there, understanding that nothing could be done about the inclement weather passing over Celtic Manor.
Some however, feel short-changed. After all, they had paid to see eight matches but only saw half of four. Ryder Cup Europe have asked that spectators from Friday hold on to their tickets for future ticketing opportunities with the European Tour, but confirmed that no-one will receive a refund.
A change in format tomorrow will help more of the matches to get completed in a faster time but the forecast of fog early tomorrow morning and heay rain on Sunday morning threatens to scupper any chances of a Sunday finish. Unfortunately, the weather men have been spot on so far.
Who knows, with a good day of weather tomorrow and some luck with the rain on Sunday, everything could be settled on Sunday night as planned. But don't be surprised to see a reduction in matches or even a Monday finish, which is a nightmare for all concerned.
Questions of even a Tuesday finish were put to bed immediately by the captains as they confirmed in a post-day interview that come 6.40pm on Monday, any remaining matches on the course will be halved and the outcome consequently decided. But for the sake of the Ryder Cup's integrity, let's hope for a dramatic and on-time conclusion...
Friday October 1st - 10.30am
The heavens open...
Unfortunately for golf fans, the weather forecasters were right. So often they get it wrong on days where it bears no consequence yet on the opening day of the biggest tournament on the golfing calendar, they were absolutely spot on.
As predicted, the rain poured relentlessly on Friday morning, sideways in direction thanks to a cool, strong wind howling and swirling around the Welsh valley. It provided conditions that lent itself more to mud-wrestling than playing golf. In fact, many of the spectators looked like they'd dabbled in a spot of mud-wrestling taking a look around on the first tee.
But in spite of the horrific weather, the cheers from the fans echoed all around Celtic Manor as the first match players approached the first tee. The atmosphere was electric, like nothing i've ever experienced in all my days following professional golf. Chants like 'There's only one Ian Poulter' and the 'Ole' song raised the spirits of the European fans in what was an awful day for watching golf. Not a single spectator was complaining. Instead, they were cheering on their team with passion and heart - such is the spirit associated with the Ryder Cup.
Hopes were raised when the rain stopped briefly just before Dustin Johnson struck the first blow of the competition, but this hope was short lived. The rain returned soon after, this time harder and faster. With it came the rise of umbrellas and the donning of waterproofs.
It is the harsh reality that golf simply can't take place when the fairways and greens are half grass, half puddles. It's a shame for the players and it's a shame for the fans but most of all, it's a shame for the country of Wales. They've put on a great show here this week and the weather has let them down. The sun will need to come out soon, or the tournament completion could be in jeopardy...
TG arrives at the Ryder Cup...
With all the hype and anticipation along with worries about the October Welsh weather, it was difficult to know what to expect on arrival at Celtic Manor. But the first impression that TG experienced was overall a positive one. The organisers appear to have it spot on and Wales can be proud of what they've achieved so far.
The course has been open to spectators since Monday, so it was no surprise to see the temporary paths caked in mud in some areas. Watching spectators walk past with mud up past their knees makes my decision to leave my waterproof trousers at home a regrettable one!
But with just a day to go, the spectators have flocked in their thousands from all over the world. I've heard a variety of accents and seen some particularly special outfits fly past me, including a 'Molinari Brothers Forever' makeshift t-shirt.
Walking from the entrance to the media centre, we immediately spotted the lonely figure of Tiger Woods, hitting balls with just his caddie Steve Williams by his side. It was a slightly surreal sight, considering the rest of his team were hitting balls on the other side of the range. Tiger also wore a different pair of trousers to the rest of the USA side - He doesn't seem to be helping his already questionable reputation as a team player.
With the last chance to determine Monty's final pairings from morning practice now over, our attention must move to Opening ceremony at 3.30pm for confirmation. You've probably got your own ideas as to who will play with who, but for Europe, here's who I reckon will feature tomorrow morning:
Match 1: Fisher & Poulter
Match 2: McIlroy & McDowell
Match 3: Westwood & Kaymer
Match 4: Donald & Harrington
The American pairings are perhaps slightly more difficult to predict, but the Woods and Stricker partnership was a huge hit at the Presidents Cup and they've practiced together for the last few days. Mickelson and Dustin Johnson is a pairing the fans would love to see and I wouldn't be surprised to see Rickie Fowler feature tomorrow morning too.
I've just recovered from the shock of paying £7.50 for pasta and meatballs and now I'm off to the Opening Ceremony. Watch this space...
Check out the pairings first here with Today's Golfer!