NEWPORT, Wales – All the rain falling out of the Welsh sky couldn’t short circuit the electric atmosphere coursing through the grandstand at the first tee Friday morning at the start of the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor.
But Mother Nature tried.
Crews worked feverishly to squeegee puddles and rivers of rainwater on the fairways and greens before and during the start of play. Gray, heavy clouds ominously hugged the hillsides above the course.
Still, European golf fans reveled in their traditional song “Ole, Ole” and chants of 'Europe' while awaiting the arrival of players. An American stood during a pause in the noise, thrust a USA sign in the air and tried to start a “USA” chant. He was drown out in jeers.
Europe's Lee Westwood was the first player to reach the tee box, igniting a roar. His playing partner, Martin Kaymer, was right behind him.
American leadoff men Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson were politely welcomed.
“My heart’s pounding just like the players, whose hearts are pounding a lot harder than mine,” American captain Corey Pavin said.
Johnson hit the first tee shot of these matches. He didn’t seem to have any trouble getting the ball onto the peg, but he pushed his drive way right of the gallery. Mickelson, wearing a pair of black weather gloves, carved a nice fade into the fairway. Westwood and Kaymer also hit the fairway and the first group went on to halve the hole with pars. They were allowed to pick up and clean their golf balls with lift, clean and place rules in play.