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Two major elemental battles
At the two biggest golfing events to be staged in Britain in 2010 – the Open at St Andrews and the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor – we were reminded of the totally irresistible power of the weather

As we come to the end of this golfing season, it’s a good time to look back at a year in which the weather played a dramatic part in two of the game’s greatest events – the Open Championship and the Ryder Cup.

The Open at St Andrews is always something special. There’s that historical buzz about the place, although the golf course itself is outdated in my view – probably one of the worst venues for spectator viewing and a nightmare to control. However, I wouldn’t take it off the Open rota at any price, even if perhaps it only deserves to hold it once every seven or eight years or so, rather than five. The whole experience is unique, and takes us back to a time when life, and golf, were much simpler affairs.

However, I do think the powers- that-be should take a long look at the number of players participating in the championship. The first group tees off at 6.30 in the morning, and the last finishes at about 10 pm, with barely enough light left to putt out. It’s getting ridiculous. I’m all for democracy but I do think the field should be cut to no more than 110 players. After all, the Masters has been enormously successful for years with as few as 80 competitors and it has hardly, if ever, gone into three figures.

A ferocious wind caused havoc on Friday and play was suspended. When it restarted, I’m not sure the wind had dropped at all. That was a great talking point. The weather had already washed out the ‘Parade of the Champions’ scheduled for the Wednesday before the championship. Many people had paid good money to watch, the authorities hung on in the vain hope they might get it underway, but it wasn't to be and many spectators left the course bedraggled and disappointed. But then it’s hard to compete with Mother Nature... …as we saw again during the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor (pictured here). What a mixed bag of weather that was! Two days of wonderful autumn sunshine and a couple with monsoon-like conditions. The course itself stood up admirably to the conditions but, as usual, it was the spectators who paid the price, trudging along the sides of the fairways which rapidly turned into a morass, reminiscent of four years previously at the K Club.

The crowds remained wonderfully cheerful but the provisions made for them were totally inadequate. Admittedly, nobody could have foreseen how bad the weather would be, or how many extra lavatories might be needed, but perhaps some sort of protective canvas could have been erected for people to shelter under.

I have received many e-mails and letters regarding the facilities at Celtic Manor, one in particular from a Mrs Deborah King, a keen supporter of the game and someone who seemingly had her arrangements very well organised.

After a very short time on Friday morning, play was suspended. She and her friends found the tented village and joined the queue for the champagne tent, looking forward to a meal in convivial surroundings and somewhere to shelter. Sadly, it was not good news. Everything was woefully inadequate. There were large areas within the tented village open to the elements, swathes of lawn which looked very pretty but served no useful purpose when they quickly became waterlogged.

Eventually they did find some shelter but then discovered that all the tables were booked. Alas, no room at the inn! The only food on offer was cold when what they needed was a hot meal. They felt lucky ending up sitting on the floor, having paid £12 for small selection of sandwiches, although they couldn't get a hot drink because the coffee machines were broken.

Considering the prices charged, it could be construed as shameful that people were left to wander about with inadequate shelter, existing on beer and pasties. I’m sure many of them expected better. Also, there were no ‘pass-outs’, meaning you couldn’t take the option of returning to your car for respite. It simply wasn’t good enough.

The upshot was that thousands of spectators left disappointed with the lack of care, respect and facilities provided. They were fully aware that nothing could be done about the weather but they felt it was poor value for the £100-per-day tickets. The only glimmer of satisfaction was the fact that Europe won the Ryder Cup, or should I say that we clawed our way over the line. The fact is that we should damp (pun intended) down a bit on all that OTT patriotic euphoria. If it hadn't been for a couple of well-earned half points along the way, and if Mahan rather than McDowell had prevailed at the end, it would have ended in even more tears, which would have added to the already waterlogged scene. So it has been a most interesting year, albeit one that leaves those in control of our wonderful game with much to ponder. Let’s hope they take heed.

January 2011

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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