Monday 11 December 2017

Monty facing day of destiny

Big test for Europe's captain after America's late surge

Colin Montgomerie was today facing the first major test of his captaincy as the rain-delayed Ryder Cup was set to resume at Celtic Manor.

Only four hours of play was possible on the opening day due to torrential rain, with the United States team holding the upper hand in the incomplete 'morning' fourballs.

The home side had led in three of the four matches before play was suspended at 9:45am, but Corey Pavin's side hit back when play eventually resumed at 5pm to lead in two matches, trail in one and be level in the other.

And even the match in which the holders were behind had swung in their favour, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson recovering from three down after six holes to Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer in the top match.

Mickelson birdied three holes in a row from the ninth to reduce the deficit to one hole, while Stewart Cink made five birdies to single-handedly put himself and Matt Kuchar two up on Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell after 11 holes.

Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington managed just one birdie in eight holes to trail rookies Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton by one hole, with Donald opting to leave himself a six-foot birdie putt to halve the ninth hole when play resumes.

The best news for Montgomerie came with Ian Poulter holing from 20ft for birdie with the last shot of the day to get back on level terms with Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.

"We had a good first couple of hours and the second two hours was in the Americans' favour but there's no match that is more than two up or two down," Montgomerie added.

"It's a very important session tomorrow to gain the momentum back."

Pavin said: "It was a tough day, but I'm pleased and very proud of the guys for how we came back."

The Ryder Cup has had a lot of changes of format since it was first played in 1927 -- and this weekend sees another.

But while organisers have been praised for coming up with a way to finish at Celtic Manor tomorrow -- possibly -- and still playing for 28 points, there are bigger issues that need addressing over the event's future.


Seven hours was lost to rain yesterday and now comes the catch-up.

Once the session is over all 24 players, rather than the usual 16, will be involved in foursomes.

After that will come two more foursomes and four fourballs and once that finishes, hopefully the 12 singles will follow as scheduled.

"It's our obligation to do everything we can while maintaining the integrity of the match to finish on Sunday," said European Tour chief executive George O'Grady.

Inevitably, it was pointed out having the match in the Usk Valley at the start of October was surely inviting trouble. The main difficulty is the US Tour schedule and what works for television networks there.

Joe Steranka is chief executive of the Professional Golfers Association of America, which runs the Ryder Cup at their end but does not run the Tour.

"We have spoken to the Tour as recently as this morning," he said last night. "They have pledged to work with us to give us best week that all of the players would be available for the Ryder Cup."

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