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Swinging in the rain

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Rob Hodgetts | 10:44 UK time, Friday, 1 October 2010

Two marshals huddle under umbrellas. They're alone in the middle of the vast stand. Rain pelts down, the wind lashes in from the left. Ordinarily no-one would be out in this, not at this time. It's 7.00am - and it's filthy.

But on the range in front, Lee Westwood bangs golf balls into the leaden sky. Now and then he glances up from under a dark Bill and Ben rain hat. The only extremity exposed is his tongue, hanging out in concentration.

Caddie Billy Foster watches on from under an umbrella. Next to him captain Colin Montgomerie, one hand in pocket, another clutching his own brolly.

At the far end, Martin Kaymer hunkers under a white woolly hat and goes through his own routine. Americans Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson stand between the Europeans, clad in blue tracksuit-style waterproofs with their names on the back. They, too, grimly limber up, trying not to drown.

Stewart Cink tees off in testing conditions on the first tee on Friday

American Stewart Cink tees off in testing conditions on the first tee on Friday

US assistant captain Tom Lehman, sporting enormous wintry mittens, peers through the rain. An assortment of other tracksuited Americans huddle together for warmth. All have brollies.

I try to cradle my own umbrella and scribble at the same time. It's not easy, my notepad is already wet.

Mickelson packs up and moves to the chipping green. Westwood follows. Tiger Woods steps out of a golf buggy, a blank look on his face. Both hands thrust in chest pockets. He's finally found some waterproofs with "Woods" on the back.

Rory McIlroy takes over Westwood's spot on the range. White baseball cap for him. Caddie Ken Comboy is in shorts. He's from the North West. Monty's assistant Darren Clarke doesn't seem to mind it either. He's from Northern Ireland. He gives McIlroy a lengthy, hearty handshake. Chewing gum and grinning, he guns his buggy and screams off through a puddle.

Ross Fisher is driven in on another cart, holding his umbrella out in front like a battering ram against the elements.

The notepad is now soaked. "At least you get paid for this," mutters a bedraggled man walking past. Mickelson finishes practice in the bunker and hops into a buggy. Caddie Bones gets in the back. Their getaway is foiled by the one-way system on the suspension bridge back over the river to the course. Mickelson waits in the cart, chatting to some ladies on the back of the one in front. Then he's off, followed by Johnson.

The first European buggies appear on the bridge. General Monty is in front. He hares past. Huge grin. He winks at me. I salute him. Not really, but it does cross my mind.
Kaymer's buggy is next. The German is smiling, too. Westwood, impassive, brings up the rear.

Roars reverberate from the packed grandstand surrounding the first tee. Two thousand in here, apparently. I add another one as I walk in to strains of "Two Molinaris, there's only two Molinaris" directed at the Italian brothers stood with the other Europeans not playing this morning Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Up ahead, the first fairway is lined by spectators on both sides. Stands at the green are packed, too. But the tops of the distant hills are obscured by cloud.

The rain slackens briefly. Spirits are high. Chants of "Ole, ole, ole" ring out. Then stamping feet. The mob spots starter Ivor Robson. The song goes up: "Ivor, Ivor, give us a wave, Ivor give us a wave". Ivor doesn't oblige. I'm stood high at the back of the grandstand behind the tee. Can't get the brolly up because we're too packed in. Hood will have to do. Hundreds of officials, players, team staff and hangers-on mill about on the tee. Some Americans pipe up with US...but before they can get to "A" they are drowned out by "Europe, Europe."

Montgomerie enters the arena. Chants of "Monty, Monty" and "Co-lin Mont-gom-erie, Co-lin Mont-gom-erie". The skipper beams. Then a thunderous roar. It's Westwood and Kaymer. Not making the roar themselves, obviously. "One Lee Westwood, there's only one Lee Westwood," the crowd sings. Feeling they should do the same for Kaymer, the song goes up. It's not quite as convincing, as if they're not quite not sure how many Martin Kaymer's there are. The players punch the air and wave.

Mickelson and Johnson appear. Polite applause. "Ssshhhhh" goes around the stand as the official photographer snaps the first group. Handshakes among the players and Robson invites Johnson to hit the first shot. More "Ssshhhhes". The American leaks it right and the crowd sense some sport. "Fore right" they cry as one and point in the same direction. Mickelson tees off wearing a black glove on each hand. Westwood, after a long pause over the ball, pulls the trigger. Kaymer hits, Monty pats them on the back and they strap on their splatchers to wade up the first fairway. Notebook pages now sticking together.

Tiger Woods (right) and caddie Steve Williams take some welcome shelter as the American third pairing await to tee off on the first hole

Tiger Woods (right) and caddie Steve Williams take some welcome shelter as the American third pairing await to tee off on the first hole

A blonde US Wag saunters in. Wolf whistles punctuate the lull. Then more Wags, in black boots, brown jodhpurs, black coats. More whistles. Jimenez takes a stroll across the tee to greet Robson. "We're all off to sunny Spain," sings one side of the stand. "Viva, Espana," answers the other.

Americans Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar wander in, almost anonymously. Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell bounce in to almighty cheers.

A "Rory McIlroy" song rings out, then chants of "Gmac" for McDowell. For a nation noted for its singing the repertoire of songs isn't quite up to Valhalla. Then it was "You've got Big Macs, we've got Gmac." Maybe the songsheet pages are stuck together, too. Even Comboy has put trousers on now.

The Americans both drive up the left, McDowell down the middle, McIlroy, swinging quickly, blocks it right. Murmurs ripple through the crowd.

The rain is heavier still. Brollies go up in unison. They look like giant multi-coloured fish scales. Now I can't see so I stand on the seat. It's swaying a bit up here.

Woods tries to sneak in unobserved. A huge roar of "Europe, Europe" greets him. US skipper Corey Pavin grins wryly and cocks his head to the gallery. Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher stride up to a maelstrom of noise, their umbrellas pumping up and down in acknowledgement.

Woods defies the elements by stripping off his waterproof top. Poulter, like a little brother trying to keep up, follows suit. The anonymous world number four Steve Stricker is here too, by the way, and he drags his tee shot left. Pantomime hisses as Woods is introduced. Despite an odd new manifestation on his practice swing he unleashes a good one. He's still got it. Poults is away, Fisher slightly hooks and they scuttle off.

Haven't heard any roars from up the course yet. Maybe they're being drowned out by the rain drumming on my brolly. Water from said umbrella is dripping down onto a lady marshal. "These jackets aren't waterproof," she laments. "Mind you, I'm not sure anything is in this."

A murmur spreads through the crowd, followed by "yessss". Those listening to radios spread the news that Westwood and Kaymer have gone one up.

The lanky Bubba Watson and the mountainous Jeff Overton walk in. Barely a ripple. Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald enter to huge cheers and the long, low call of "Luuuuuuuuuke" that sounds like booing but isn't.

The US Wags wake up and go for a team "USA, USA" but are quickly drowned out. The "You're not singing any more" song just rubs salt in the wound. One brave Wag in Stars and Stripes wellies does a little dance with her brolly and we all laugh.

Harrington takes a practice swing and then another and another. The crowd latch on to this. Each subsequent one is accompanied by a building "ooooh-aaaaaah" like a goalkeeper running up to take a goal kick. Paddy laughs and teases them, stopping on the backswing.

Men up ahead squeegee water off the fairway. The first strains of "Singing In The Rain" burst out. Robson interrupts to introduce the players. Shame. That was a good one.

Overton pumps one up there first, then Watson with his pink-shafted driver lighting up the gloom. Left-handed, he takes an open stance and lashes at it with his light sabre. Donald matches him, Harrington drags his left.

They splosh off the tee and the 2010 Ryder Cup is go. Just as well - the notepad is mush. If I've forgotten anything, that's why.


  • Comment number 1.

    Fabulous Rob! Superb to get a feel for the atmosphere. The great British sports fan really is a rare breed! Wish I could be there....

  • Comment number 2.

    Seriously good one Rob. It really paints the picture well.

    How is the course standing up to this deluge? Reckon it can take much more?

  • Comment number 3.

    You've encapsulated the atmosphere really well there. Brought a smile to my face on an otherwise glum day.

  • Comment number 4.

    Blimey. I am not a lover of golf, the rain or of Newport, but you have almost made me want to be there! Great piece.

  • Comment number 5.

    The US moved the date of the Ryder cup due to their PGA tour'ments. Wherever this was played in the UK today it would have been wet and windy so lets give the Celtic Manor and wales a break !

  • Comment number 6.

    Somebody said this morning that the Ryder Cup is the 3rd biggest sporting event in the world.

    Why then is it being held in the British Isles in October ??

    The weather is turning it into a tragedy .

  • Comment number 7.

    Well said The Sweeney
    I have read some inflammatory comments about Wales this morning on the
    BBC, cheap shots that are completely out of order!
    Like the one, which got highlighted in blue within the main text.
    Read something like "Who in their right mind picked Wales and October"

  • Comment number 8.

    Great stuff Rob....if there's not much golf today, lets put the crowd banter in the highlights.

  • Comment number 9.

    You can plan for the tournament but not for the weather.

    At the moment the weather in Crail just outside St Andrews is shocking - heavy rain and very strong winds so let's not get hung up on the Welsh weather as it looks like it's bad over the whole country.

  • Comment number 10.

    Who in their right mind picked Wales in October? Well actually the USA did, but we might have guessed what kind of weather to expect. I'm sure there could have been a break in tournaments to play this one month earlier. Prospects for next two days not too great either. Let's keep our 9 irons crossed.

  • Comment number 11.

    Celtic Manor has proved itself to be a bog of a course in its short yet expensive existance to date! The welsh open in 2009 turned into a farce with players being forced to play what could only be described as balls caked in mud! And that was in June!! Poor course choice has taken the first morning excitment of the Ryder Cup and ruined it!

  • Comment number 12.

    Great piece Rob, who says golf on the interent doesn't work!!

    Don't blame Wales everyone, they can't help it..... (snigger).

    I'd make the players play, its the same for everyone in the same match, and I thought they were meant to be good....just a concession to let them pick the ball up and throw it into the hole once they're on the green.

  • Comment number 13.

    You seriously would not turn a cat out in this, never mind a golfer.

  • Comment number 14.

    Funny now that is suddenly, Welsh weather! When it rains at Lords, it is, British weather. Incidentally, I am in Somerset and it belting down here. At least the Welsh have a course good enough to stage the Ryder Cup. Here in the West, not even a decent football ground, let alone the facilities to handle a major event.

  • Comment number 15.

    Tragedy methinks not.Monday finish will just be fine. Local monday holiday up here in sunny Fife. TV could be on all day.
    Real tragedy-I will tell you what that is Donrossi. When the morning cries and you dont know why. The brothers Gibb can tell you all about tragedy.Suggest you give them a listen.

  • Comment number 16.

    See this is what happens when you stage something in Wales! Hence why the Rally GB is there! Great country for racing, not so sure about golf in October.

  • Comment number 17.

    Still boucing down in Lancashire, no end in sight lol

  • Comment number 18.

    # 15 jonnie mac

    thanks for advice - i must admit i like the BeeGees songs " staying alive " in my canoe .or " how deep is ..that puddle " .

    I suggest you listen to Justin T - " cry me a river "

    Weather in Fife is dreadful as you know .

    Ps. Is coffee on for our break ?? . I fancy a Tunnocks .
    Looking forward to watching Golf on Monday

  • Comment number 19.

    This piece was so well written, I registered just to congratulate you. You are the next Tony Parsons. Brilliantly evocative stuff.

  • Comment number 20.

    11 and 16 so what your saying is if the event had been held anywhere else in Britain today the weather would have been sunny and dry??? May I respectfully suggest you look out of your window...its peeing down over most of the country today.

    Its a fine course and worthy of holding the event. Tomorrow is looking much better, here's hoping Wales does the competition proud

  • Comment number 21.

    Great piece - really made me feel like I was there!! (I was actually still in bed). Its actually stopped raining up here in kendal for the last 5 minutes!!!

  • Comment number 22.

    Thanks DonRossi,
    my musical tastes are too conservative for Timberlake. I particularly like `swing` music. Sinatras classic -singing in the rain, or should that be pinging in the rain might be a good choice for today.
    Mine`s a tea with no sugar please.

  • Comment number 23.

    Well, I'm a spit away from Moortown, home of the first UK Ryder Cup and it's a fair bet there's no play there either. I've got serious doubts about whether my local course will be open - tomorrow morning! if this doesn't abate soon.

  • Comment number 24.

    The weather is terrible but are the schools going to be closed again on Monday in cardiff and newport?

  • Comment number 25.

    Cheers all. It really was very wet. Trousers still soaking. Cracking atmosphere though. Shame about the rest of it. Surely there can't be any rain left up there?

  • Comment number 26.

    What`s all the fuss about. Rained over night on Llyn Peninsula (in Wales) but lovely now, perhaps the players could get a helicopter up here and finish todays golf.

  • Comment number 27.

    Holding any outdoor sporting event in the UK during October is going to be problematical, why on earth couldn't they have staged it in September?

  • Comment number 28.

    Kind of interesting that nobody pointed out the micro climate in that area, particularly in spring and autumn. It is a magnet for precipitation. Frankly speaking, Manchester or Seattle may have made more sense. They need to play any ryder cups in northen europe earlier, for both issues of weather and daylight.

  • Comment number 29.

    I disagree with people saying it has been ruined by weather. It's increasing the excitement and in some ways improves the atmosphere I think personally. I cannot wait for the weekends play, just hope we can maintain the momentum. Harrington and Donald have been outplayed so far, Really still stand by Casey, think he should have been playing.

    Bit like the Glastonbury effect.

  • Comment number 30.

    A great descriptive commentary of the opening this morning, Rob. Well done! When watching on Sky I wondered if they crowd was booing Luke Donald when he was announced, but thanks for letting me know that there was a call "Luuuuuuuuuke".
    It's a lovely sunny afternoon here in Northern Ireland - no doubt it will soon clear and the sun will be splitting the stones.

  • Comment number 31.

    Almost stopped raining in Rossendale, fine drizzle, almost a sunny day! Listening to 5 live, sounds like some golf will be played. Can't wait.

  • Comment number 32.

    Would not like to be in shoes of the original supplier for the American Team's waterproofs.

  • Comment number 33.

    #23 - Speaking of Moortown, on Wednesday, there was a military Ryder Cup staged there between members of the Armed Forces from the US bases in the UK and a European team (mostly English, Irish, Scots, Welsh) in aid of Help For Heroes. A fabulous day despite the weather - Europe victorious. Same again please Monty....

  • Comment number 34.

    re 33
    pity it was not shown on tv, would have been good.

  • Comment number 35.

    Don't understand all the moaning about the weather. This type of thing can happen in the summer too, was there not suspended play at The Open in July due to the weather conditions? Donrossi and Jonnymac would be better forgetting about the tunnocks and tea, and instead brave the elements themselves. Can't beat 18 holes at Dufftown Golf Club on Speyside, and then a Speyside Malt while catching up with the highlights from Wales.

  • Comment number 36.

    Good for you Charl13. Come on 5Live, you take Strictly and then the Beeb 1 can gives us the pics.....

  • Comment number 37.

    not really listened to golf on the radio before, very good. Well impressed with 5 live. You can almost see the shots!

  • Comment number 38.

    Saw Terry Matthews on B.B.C. news this morning and he told the reporter about the emphasis on good drainage when the course was being constructed.
    Wonder is there any chance of him getting his money back.
    This dump of a course looks awful in sunshine never mind torrential rain.

  • Comment number 39.

    With your words you paint such a vivid picture of the Ryder Cup, Rob. You are a Titian (bless you) of golf bloggers.

    But what you don't say is that this farcical golf match has already been all but ruined by the weather, weather that was always a likelihood, so that the decision to hold the Ryder Cup in Wales at this time of year has to be every bit as daft as it seemed at the time it was made.

    Who pulled the strings to get it to The Celtic Manor? I think we should be told.

  • Comment number 40.

    Why should the Ryder Cup not be played in Wales, part of Europe. This happens over the majority of England and Scotland at this time of year. Why can't the Americans move the Fed Ex?

  • Comment number 41.

    I feel sorry for theperson who is going to have to guardluke donalds ball marker, as surely if they leave it unguarded it might be moved.

  • Comment number 42.

    One of the most enthralling aspects of Ryder Cup golf is the atmosphere created by spectators on the course. This atmosphere transmits itself to those of us confined to TV and radio coverage, in a way that never happens to the same degree during other golf tournaments. But it is inevitable that a sparce crowd of cold, wet spectators huddled under umbrellas fail to generate much electricity and this is apart from the effect that heavy rain has on the quality of the golf.

    If the Ryder Cup HAS to be played in October then common sense dictates that it should not be played in a region which expects, on average, more than half the days of the month to be wet.

  • Comment number 43.

    I predict and expect US to win 16-12 minimum. Their golfers look so much more relaxed and in control of themselves. They are playing much better golf as a result. Our players look too tense to even move and Monty is patrolling around looking like he is about to blow a blood vessel with tension. The crowd is baying for blood which though predictable does not help. And the revised format will now favour US. They may only need 3 points from the singles to retain the Ryder cup and deservedly so.
    Wales in October is just wet and bleak and thoroughly miserable in keeping with the European team. Even those red sweaters look dismal and fist-thumping is just embarrassing. If they could learn to relax more they would be in a far better position to take on US.

  • Comment number 44.

    I was at the Celtic Manor today, June in Wales is a lot better idea because even if we had the same amount of rain, they still could have played up to eight or nine o'clock.
    Big whinge coming up now!
    We had to wait the best part of ten years for the tournament to start, then paid a hundred quid to see it on friday.
    We saw a handful of holes being played, in between walking for seven hours around a mudbath to keep warm because unless you went corporate there were not many places to get out of the rain.
    Every hour from midday they said there would be another announcement (albeit to keep everyone there spending money)and to top it off they said that there would be no refunds and if it went to monday we could not get in because it would only be open to sunday ticket holders.
    Lets get this straight, I am Welsh, the tournament is in my back yard, I do not want a refund, I want to see it live and anyone who has been to the Manor over the last few days knows it could take double the amount of people that they have sold tickets for.
    Also if it goes to monday the atmosphere will diminish because most of the crowd will have gone home and us Welsh local people will not be allowed in.

  • Comment number 45.

    Sadly Monty is now pretty much stuck with the pairings he has now. It is going to be nearly impossible to shift things around because of people just finishing rounds, and needing to start rounds. I don't think he has great foursomes pairings out at the moment. Harrington and Donald will get beaten easily n foursomes, and Westwood would be much better suited to play with Donald for foursomes, but it might be impossible to make that happen, due to the schedule. I hate to say it, but advantage USA

  • Comment number 46.

    The reason they chant "Luuuuuuuke" (which does sound a bit like a boo from a distance) is because it's done in the style of Obi One talking to Luke Skywalker.
    'Luuuuuuke. Feel the force'. Which hopefully he does today.

    And the reason we've been chucked back into October is because the Americans and their PGA believe they can just shunt around the greatest golf tournament in the world, the Ryder Cup, and insert their new Fed Ex Cup series into the golfing calendar wherever they please!!
    With the next Ryder Cup on home soil being staged in Scotland, at Gleneagles, we're in danger of experiencing exactly the same kind of foul weather.
    It's just not fair to the fans, the viewers, the players, to the organisers and the Tourism Boards.
    Let's get the Ryder Cup back into September where it belongs.
    The Fed Ex Cup can work around the Ryder Cup...not vice versa!!

  • Comment number 47.

    HNick great comment. Ryder Cup in September and forget there silly Fed Ex cup which nobody understands or likes even the players

  • Comment number 48.

    agree with Garman.

  • Comment number 49.

    Just wondering when / if the BBC are ever going to start showing the Ryder Cup again?

    Just find the US commentators a bit irritating after a while and there are too many adverts on Sky...and they're all the same!


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