Commentary

Americans wetter, then better on Day 1

Originally Published: October 1, 2010
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

NEWPORT, Wales -- Step into your shower stall fully clothed. Turn on the cold water full blast. Stand there for hours.

You are now at the Ryder Cup.

There's wet and then there's this place -- this place being the Twenty (Thousand Leagues Under the Sea) Ten Course at Celtic Manor. A storm system/N'easter decided to apply for residency at the Ryder Cup venue Friday, dumping enough water on the resort grounds to turn it into the Everglades.

It rained so long and so hard that even the ducks and geese were trying to squeeze into the merchandise pavilion to buy waterproof gear. Of course, they had to beat the PGA of America officials sent there to scarf up rainsuits for Team USA members.

Is it a good sign that the USA's players were as waterlogged as the course? Or that during the morning downpours Tiger Woods didn't bother wearing his defective rain jacket? Or that the USA outerwear was as saturated as a car wash chamois?

[+] EnlargeDustin Johnson
Ross Kinnaird/Getty ImagesWhen the weather was at its worst Friday morning, Dustin Johnson and teammate Phil Mickelson were 3-down after six holes in a four-ball match against Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer.

Someone (captain Corey Pavin? The captaintessa Lisa Pavin?) screwed up. To outfit your entire team in rain gear that doesn't actually stop the rain is the double-bogey of gaffes. It's one thing to forget Stewart Cink's name during the opening ceremonies (as Pavin did); it's another to forget to keep your team dry on one of the wettest days in Ryder Cup history.

"We were disappointed with the performance of [the rainsuits], so we just fixed it," said Pavin of the emergency shopping spree.

Thing is, they didn't "fix it" until it was too late. Some of the USA's players had been muttering about the rainsuits since Wednesday's wet practice rounds. You didn't need to be Al Roker to know that more rain was on the way.

Pavin lucked out that play was suspended after only two hours Friday. Had it continued, his morning four-ball players might have had to jettison their semi-useless rain gear for Hefty bags. (Come to think it, the garbage bags would be an improvement over the Chicago White Sox, circa 1977, knock-offs.) Anyway, this is what you call a costume malfunction.

But wait, there's more ...

Not only were the Americans stuck wearing Jorge Orta's Sox uni, but their golf bags leaked like rusty kitchen pipes in a "This Old House" episode. Hard to keep the club grips dry when your dipping them into a puddle at the bottom of your bag.

Little things, I know. But enough little things add up to big things. It doesn't make Pavin a crummy USA captain, just occasionally an inattentive one. The devil is in the details and right now, Team Europe captain Colin Montgomerie has done a better job identifying the Ryder Cups satans. How do I know this? Because his players were DRY!

It wasn't a great Ryder Cup start for the Americans. They got wet. They got smoked (Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson were 2-down after five holes before rain halted play). They got cheered when their shots trickled into the water (like Steve Stricker's tee shot on the par-3 third hole).

By the time play was halted in the morning, the USA trailed in three of the four matches and the Twenty Ten Course resembled the River Usk, which runs through and along the layout. Michael Phelps could have done a training session in some of the flooded bunkers. The fairways squished like a soaked sponge.

"It's almost hard to call it a golf course," Cink told reporters.

"This is awful," said Montgomerie. "This is absolutely awful."

Monty had his own problems once the session resumed 7 hours and 15 minutes later. The USA players, finally dry and in sweaters, perked up during the middle holes. Cink and partner Matt Kuchar pulled a reversal on Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell and left the course 2-up after 11 holes. Cink, the best player of the day (and night), had five birdies.

Stricker and Woods were 1-down but ended the day all square by the time they finished No. 10. Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton left the darkened course 1-up after eight holes. Johnson and Mickelson even shaved some of their deficit to Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, from 3-down after six holes to 1-down after 12.

Rain changes everything. The ball flies less and plops more. The rough, already as thick as McIlroy's hair, gets meaner. Balls sink deep into the bunkers as if the sand is lava flow.

Early Friday evening came news that rain had altered the remaining schedule and format of the competition. And by the way, why would Pavin agree to a revised format that on paper clearly favors the European team?

"The Ryder Cup is too important of an event for it to be compromised," said Cink.

Cink was talking about the weather, but what about those devils and those details? The USA isn't going to keep or lose possession of the Ryder Cup because Pavin suffered a quality control glitch on Day 1. But if it happens again on Days 2 and 3 (and possibly Day 4), then Team USA has a problem.

Faulty waterproofs and leaky golf bags shouldn't have been the topic of the day. But the torrential rains exposed the mistakes and, at times, exposed Team USA's inability to adapt in the wet.

Then again, it's tough to play in a shower stall.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

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