Blog 64, 10/1/10 - Day One Ryder Cup; Plenty of Action, Just Not on the Golf Course

What a crazy day at the Ryder Cup. Only this event can create so much controversy, so many talking points, and so much emotion despite so little golf being played. It started under a dark cloud that just got darker and wetter and postponed play for fully seven hours. But what a seven hours.
First we had the problem of the US team's waterproofs letting in...wait for it...water. The obvious reaction was to roll one's eyes and ask how a team of multi-millionaires representing the richest nation on Earth and sanctioned by an organization with pockets down to its knees could possibly arrive at so enormous an event with such dodgy gear. Sun Mountain, the suits' manufacturer, obviously suffered a PR nightmare. I thought it odd that a company with as good a reputation as Sun Mountain could be guilty of outfitting the US Ryder Cup team with sub-standard rainsuits so thought there must be a good reason for it. I wasn't a bit surprised to learn the problem might (stress the word 'might' here) be a design flaw for which Sun Mountain wasn't responsible but a certain captain's wife who had added some 'elaborate stitching' to what was, supposedly, a perfectly good product (Sun Mountain's top-of-the-line rain jacket is the Rainflex HD which features a dot-laminate membrane and stretch-tape seams to keep it waterproof) because she knows all about outerwear design having worked for Deutsche Bank and IBM in the past and as her husband's personal assistant.
There's nothing to stop the captain, of either side, from allowing their wife to get involved, of course. But at some point you have to draw the line. I might have drawn that line long before the point at which she began designing the team's waterproofs, and simply left the company making the suit do that part for me.
Not long after that melee arose, we also heard the American's bags were behaving in much the same manner as the waterproofs by letting in water. Belding was the manufacturer in question here. I'd never heard of them, but suspect they have quite a good reputation and that there is probably a logical explanation for their bags malfunctioning. Please tell me the Captainess didn't design them.
The fourball matches were halted at about 10am local time with the lead group having played just five holes. Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer were 2up on Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson who made a tense start, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell were 1up on Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar, Ross Fisher and Ian Poulter were 1up against Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton were 2up against Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington.
For seven hours and 18 minutes, while the groundscrew worked hard to suck up as much of the water as possible and the PGA of America headed over to the merchandise tent to purchase $7,000-worth of Pro Quip rainsuits, the players signed autographs, napped and played Tiger Woods's EA Sports game. Ian Poulter, cheeky chappy that he is, tweeted that his waterproofs were keeping him nice and dry.
At 5pm the rain stopped and play was able to resume. Westwood, Kaymer, Johnson and Mickelson made it to the 12th with the Europeans 1up. In the second match, Cink made a number of clutch birdie putts to turn a one-hole deficit into a 2up lead, while in the third match Poulter holed a 15-footer for a two at the short 10th to bring the match back to all-square before darkness set in. Watson and Overton were 1up against Donald and Harrington after eight.
Because so much time was lost, a decision was made toward the end of the day by the two captains along with George O'Grady of the European Tour and Joe Steranka of the PGA of America that the schedule for the next two days needed to be changed if the event was to finish on Sunday evening. The alternative was to carry on into Monday which no one, apart from airlines who might collect some itinerary alteration fees and local hotels who would get another night's stay out of their guests, wanted.
The great news that came out of the press conference with O'Grady and Steranka (and also Chief Referee John Paramor and the PGA's Kerry Haigh) was that with a tweak, a twist, a nip, and a tuck the tournament could still end Sunday with all 28 points contested for. The new schedule calls for the first session fourballs to be completed first thing Saturday morning. The first of six foursome matches then goes out at 10.45am. The third session will comprise two foursomes and four fourballs and will be played in whatever time remains Saturday afternoon/evening and Sunday morning. Sunday's singles will begin following the completion of the third session.
Following the decision, the internet became heavy with speculation that Pavin had made a mistake by consenting to the six-foursome session on Saturday - the thinking being that because Europe is stronger at the bottom exposing all twelve Americans to the alternate-shot format would work against the US. Pavin would, of course normally be able to 'rest' the four players he didn't want playing the foursomes (Watson, Overton, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson?), but under the new scheme they all play Saturday.
Pavin would no doubt have been aware of this before he agreed to it, so deserves credit for electing to do whatever it took to complete the tournament on Sunday. Of course the format isn't ideal as the decision over which players to rest in each session is an integral part of the Ryder Cup and helps distinguish it from the Presidents Cup. But we still get 28 matches that, barring any more rain delays, end on Sunday evening under a beautiful Welsh sun creeping slowly below the horizon.

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