02/10/2010 10:28
Why does it always rain on me?
As European Team Captain Colin Montgomerie’s predecessor, Sir Nick Faldo waved goodbye to the Ryder Cup in the Kentucky sunshine two years ago, and quipped: “See you in Wales – and bring your waterproofs.” He wasn’t wrong. Dawn broke over the rolling fairways of Celtic Manor, and with it come the kind of weather organisers had dreaded.
As the fans waited patiently to witness one of the greatest sporting spectacles in the world, drenched through before a ball had been played, they started singing football-style songs to show their loyalties and keep passions high. “There’s only two Molinaris!” they sang, perhaps a little more in tune than soccer fans on the terraces of the world – this after all, is the land of the male voice choir.
But then, on this dark, wet, Autumn morning, it was down to American Phil Mickelson to take the first shot, down the first fairway, in the first Ryder Cup ever to be played on Welsh soil. England’s Lee Westwood and Germany’s Martin Kaymer took the honour for Europe, while Dustin Johnson followed his compatriot in the US Team as the first Fourball headed out into the torrential downpour ahead.
The crowds, as expected, were stoic in their support, with an impressive ‘local’ turnout. Even unseasonably heavy rain couldn’t dampend the spirits of the 45,000 spectators who’d travelled from across Europe to show their allegiances. Dressed in a sea of rain-repellant attire, and sheltering under an ocean of oversized umbrellas, they monitored progress of the ensuing group with chants of “Eu-rope! Eu-rope!” and ‘Ror-ree! Ror-ree!” as Ulstermen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell challenged Americans Matt Kuchar and Stewart Cink for the first point of their match.
Ian Poulter, the self-appointed fairway fashion plate of the European Team, is never afraid to seize the opportunity to interact with his fans, and using an umbrella as a stoking tool, he conducted the crowds as he and fellow Englishman Ross Fisher took to the tee next, taking on Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.
As the Europeans seemed to get ahead in the scoring stakes, it seemed they were one up on the clothing front, too. The American players found themselves in the unfortunate position of having to send a team official to replace their waterproof kit in the Merchandise Pavilion. “We are disappointed with the performance of them, so we fixed it,” explained Captain Corey Pavin. “They weren’t doing what we wanted them to do so we went out and bought new waterproofs.”
Thankfully, the issue was quickly resolved, but it did demonstrate the importance of meticulous advance planning for the Ryder Cup captains, and how crucial the details of the players’ wardrobes are.
“When I was a player in the Ryder Cup, I simply turned up, put on the gear that had been left for me in my room, went out and started playing,” recalled European Captain Colin Montgomerie, who collaborated with his wife Gaynor, caddie Jason Hempleman and senior executives at Canali and other clothing partners for all aspects of the team’s kit design – on and off course. “But as captain it is totally different, and I am central to all of what goes on behind the scenes. I have always said we will wear what the players want to wear, and I think that symbolizes the entire team spirit we are engendering.”
Being more familiar with the wet stuff than their counterparts, and unhindered by distractions, Europe got off to a great start in the fourballs - teams play in pairs, each playing their own ball, with the best score of the two winning the hole for that team.
But then it was that the weather got the better of the first day of play at the 38th Ryder Cup, as puddles of water forming on the fairways forced play to be suspended at the Celtic Manor Resort. The two teams retreated to the luxurious team rooms in the specially-built Twenty Ten Clubhouse, where they caught up on sleep, played on games consoles, Tweeting pictures (the Europeans are allowed to use social networking during the tournament, but have been asked to respect their fellow players’ privacy) and catching up with their families – Luke Donald has his seven month old daughter Elle here, and reported back that he’d been playing with her during their time off course.
The spectators, on the other hand, were less fortunate, and made their way in their thousands to the tented village, where Ryder Cup logo-ed umbrellas and towels began to sell fast as the deluge took hold with a vengeance. There was no doubting that the retailers and refreshment vendors on-site at Celtic Manor benefitted from the fact that rain had stopped play. Spirits were high, and while the crowds patiently awaited the announcement that play would resume, they sang songs, made new friends and improvised attire to suit the somewhat mud-swamped environment. Then, as the rain abated and a chink of sunlight began to break through the grey skies, came the news we all wanted: around seven hours after they sought cover, the 16 players were about to take their places on the course and resume their first rounds. Gone were the bulky excess layers of clothes, and we got our first proper glimpse of the players in their dove grey Canali wool trousers.
But, as the clouds began to dissipate, so did the momentum garnered by the home team in the morning’s play. While Poulter rewarded the crowds who’d waited patiently for him to reappear by holing a fabulous 20 foot putt on the tenth, Stewart Cink seemed to dropping his balls in the hole in almost military fashion. It was an interesting reversal of the morning’s fortunes when we saw the balance of blue and red on the scoreboards at close of play – but then, tomorrow, thankfully, is another day.

There really are no words to describe the euphoria that swept the fairways of Celtic Manor this afternoon, as Colin Montgomerie’s embattled men reclaimed the Samuel Ryder Cup as their own. As the sun shone brightly over the picturesque Usk Valley, this lush pocket of south Wales saw a groundswell of European pride emerging from the sodden earth. The air was filled with raw emotion as complete strangers hugged and patted each other on the back. Tears streamed down the cheeks of grown men, who cheered with booming voices, and mothers clung to bewildered children who knew only that they had never before seen anything like this – and may never do so again.
History is being made in this, the 38th Ryder Cup. For some, they’ll be delighted this event is going down in the record books: for others, they might prefer to banish the memories and move on....
For the fans, the key lesson from yesterday’s shenanigans was to think carefully about their attire so they could survive the sporting marathon. The merchandise pavilion in the tented village has virtually sold out of waterproof gear, and supplies of the official Ryder Cup umbrellas were gone before a ball was hit in anger. So, spectators came prepared in all manner of garb, to show their allegiances, while somehow keeping dry and warm.
As European Team Captain Colin Montgomerie’s predecessor, Sir Nick Faldo waved goodbye to the Ryder Cup in the Kentucky sunshine two years ago, and quipped: “See you in Wales – and bring your waterproofs.”
While the US and European Teams battle it out on the fairways at Celtic Manor, one newlywed couple in the crowd is flying the flag for both teams ....
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