RYDER CUPSeptember 30, 2010

Stolen Moment

The Europeans' early momentum gave way to an early hole

Martin Kaymer was disappointed play had to be suspended.

Martin Kaymer was disappointed play had to be suspended.

NEWPORT, Wales -- Exactly two years on and finally Nick Faldo can take credit for getting something right as European Ryder Cup skipper. "Bring your waterproofs," the six-time major champion had quipped, foot firmly in mouth, in reference to Wales as he signed off from what has to be the most cringe-making closing ceremony oration ever heard at the biennial contest.

Seven hours and 18 minutes was the length of the rain-induced delay -- just about how long Faldo's speech felt to those unfortunate souls who suffered through it -- the shame of it that any atmosphere and buzz built up by the chants from the jovial crowd around the first tee had long dissipated.

"There's only one Lee Westwood," was closely followed by the inevitable "There's only two Molinaris" and a quick good-natured burst of "Who are you? Who are you?" as PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem posed for photographs alongside various PGA of America dignitaries, all of them equally anonymous as far as the spectators were concerned.

There was no alternative, of course, when it came to calling play. Celtic Manor, along with the rest of Wales, had all but disappeared under water by the time the teams left the course for the first time.

"Both captains were offered an opportunity to say what they felt about the conditions out there, and yes, I wanted to stay on, in a perfect world, but at the same time, there was nothing we could do," said European skipper Colin Montgomerie.

Certainly, the Europeans had most to regret about the sodden cessation of hostilities. Up in three matches and down in one, the home side had just the sort of start captain Monty had been hoping for.

"I would love to have kept playing," confirmed PGA Champion Martin Kaymer, with Westwood two up on Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson after five holes of the top match. "This is our weather."

Not everyone's though. In a moment of what can only be described as madness or, at least, inattentiveness, Padraig Harrington struck his approach to the opening green over the putting surface, while the group in front had yet to hole out. He's Irish, you know...or maybe he was just trying to make up for all those years of slow play by going really quickly this time.

Also raising a European smile or two was "Waterproofgate," the trials and tribulations of the U.S side and their leaky rain gear. No one was saying anything too provocative on the record -- heaven forbid in these politically correct times -- but the expression on the face of Ian Poulter said it all. Well, nearly all.

"Ours are keeping us nice and dry, that's all I'm going to say," smirked the Englishman.

Still, Poulter's look of satisfaction was surely replaced by one containing the odd furrow by the time play ended on what has to have been golf's "longest day." With the second and fourth matches down, the third all square and only the narrowest of leads in the top game, the favored Europeans are being pushed more than a little by the supposedly beleaguered Yanks. And that scenario, parochial biases notwithstanding, makes for the perfect Ryder Cup, even if dear old Monty was doing his best to put a positive spin on a second period of play that had gone less than well for his side.

"We had a good first hour of play," said the Scot. "But the next two hours went in the Americans' favor. But every match is winnable. Everyone is still in the game. We can still take a lead into the next series of matches. That was a great putt by Ian (Poulter) to win the tenth hole at the end of the day. It gives us momentum going into tomorrow. The roar that went up was fantastic."

Otherwise, the Scot was more than once snappy in response to questions he deemed less than sensible. Clearly, the pressure is building. Lord knows what he'll be like on Sunday evening if the Europeans finish second.