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With drink and good humor, British fans keep spirits high during rain delay

Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

<br />Greenskeepers at Castle Royle Golf Club in the United Kingdom created a six hole course for snow play.

NEWPORT, Wales — Ryder Cup fan Julian Crow had a busy day Friday waiting out the eight-hour rain delay at Celtic Manor.

"What have I been doing?" a cheerful Crow said. "Well, standing in the rain, having a couple cigarettes, seeing some of my mates, standing in the rain again, having a pint in the bar, going to the bathroom, having a couple more cigarettes, then standing in the rain some more."

Crow, who only had tickets for Friday, came to Newport, Wales, from his home in Cambridge, England. But if you think he would be overly disappointed by the rain, think again.

"We're British, we put up with a lot," Crow said. "And the best place to do it is in the Ryder Cup Bar with a bit of banter."

The Ryder Cup Bar, basically a large tent lined with busy bartenders pouring pints of lager in plastic cups, was the most popular spot for sitting out the drenching rain, although any shelter would do. Neil John MacPherson, of Aberdeen, Scotland, found an outdoor table protected by a makeshift roof. MacPherson just missed the morning golf as well, and while he was disappointed by the delay, he wasn't surprised.

"Looking at the forecast, and thinking about the locality of the course and the time of year, no I wasn't surprised." MacPherson said. "The course is not mature enough to absorb this kind of rain and recover quickly."

Even though UK golfers are accustomed to playing through heavy rain (lightning isn't usually a problem here), MacPherson said Friday afternoon was too wet for even the hardiest Scotsman to play golf. The soggy morning, though? That was fine for golf, MacPherson said.

"As a young man, I would have played," he said. Of course, MacPherson probably had better rain wear than Team USA.

The problem, he said, is that the Ryder Cup is being scheduled for too late in the year.

"It's unfortunate, but it couldn't be avoided in Wales," MacPherson said. "I think we're playing too late in the year now. This is the third most-watched sporting event in the world, and it deserves a better time frame to be played in."

Neil Handforth and his fiancée, Michelle Drage, were visiting for the day from outside Manchester. They killed some time in the merchandise tent, but they didn't buy any more gear than they would have normally. The key to keeping your good humor in the rain is the hospitality tent, Drage said.

"We had champagne and lunch," Drage said. "We love golf. We go to the Open, and this is the best organized setup we've ever seen."

Handforth said he'd been to the last 12 Ryder Cups and he'd never seen weather like the stuff that hit Celtic Manor on Friday. However, he doesn't think the soggy conditions will favor the Europeans, who get a lot more experience in foul conditions than their American counterparts.

"I don't think so," Handforth said. "I think Tiger's going to have his best Ryder Cup by far, and I think Stewart Cink will play very well. It will be a lot closer than everybody thinks."

Still, the Ryder Cup Bar was where the action was, and it got rowdy enough that a bra was hanging from the roof of the tent, which must have been a scene since the male-female ratio there was comparable to Comic-Con, a fantasy football draft or an average Saturday night for me and my friends in high school.

With their Rory McIlroy wigs, Tom Palin and friends Rory, Brian and Ian stood out among the hundreds of fans drinking pints shoulder-to-shoulder.

Palin — "no relation to Sarah and you can print that!" — and his friends were luckier than most; they got to the course early enough to see McIlroy play five holes, and they were "hoping and praying" play would resume in the late afternoon.

"We were at the third hole this morning," Palin said. "Rory saw us and gave us a wave. He appreciated the wigs."

Brian added, "And since then we've been drinking." He held a stack of at least a dozen plastic beer cups.

The key to enjoying yourself in the UK, Ian said, is having a good back-up plan.

"Everybody is in the same boat," Ian said. "Being British we have a built-in mentality that the rain will foul up everything you plan, so you always need to have a back-up plan, which is usually the bar."

Just then another fan lurched toward the group. He was carrying a full pint and announced he had a comment for the press.

"I'm f---ing wet," he said. "I've spent 100 pounds. I've seen no golf, but I've had 10 pints."

Somehow, he made it sound like the most fun you could possibly have.

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