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Of Rain, Lisa, and Other Things

NEWPORT, WALES | Good sportsmanship? Maybe the Ryder Cup is a bad idea. At least for the United States, being blamed for all the ills that beset sport, except the weather for which Wales and Great Britain are entirely responsible. Glub.

We begin with the premise set forth by one Paul Simons, who is listed in the Times of London as the “Weatherman,’’ a regal and perhaps on occasion, such as the 38th Ryder Cup, an embarrassing label.

“It is nothing short of incredible,’’ wrote Simons, “that anyone thought a major golf tournament could be held in South Wales without taking a huge gamble on the weather. Nowhere in Britain can get away without a big risk of rain, but Celtic Manor is especially wet.’’

As you are aware, Celtic Manor, here pronounced Kel-tik Manor, is the multi-million dollar resort complex on and below rolling green hills where the Cup was held. And where insults were lobbed. And where rain suits leaked. And where columnists found reason to declare all problems, other than the deluge, attributable to the good old U.S. of A.

Basically, while the Brits love golf and love hosting the biennial event for which the locals were charged some $100 a day entry fee and forced to park seven miles away and be shuttled, the Brits are anything but enamored with things American. Included in the category were ceremonies surrounding the Ryder Cup and Lisa Pavin, wife of U.S. team captain Corey Pavin.

They did, however, willingly and gratefully show approval of Amy Mickelson, Phil’s wife, who battling breast cancer made her first public appearance since The Masters, and Tiger Woods, as much a curiosity factor – would he justify Pavin making him a captain’s
pick? – as the No. 1 golfer in the world rankings.

One might think that in a country whose ceremonial ruler for more than a half-century, Queen Elizabeth, is a female and whose prime minister not so long ago, Maggie Thatcher, is a female, there would be an appreciation of strong-willed women. Not when it comes to Lisa Pavin.

All you married gentlemen understand who makes the rules around the house. Corey Pavin certainly does. If your wife suggests you stop wearing that ratty golf sweater, well, why argue.

Lisa Pavin had some suggestions for the American Ryder Cup team. She also posed for the cover of something called “Avid Golfer’’ in a red-white-and-blue flag or drape or dress, or combination of all three. Her presence grated on some of the British journalists, most particularly Oliver Brown of the Daily Telegraph.

“Mrs. Pavin: Model wife or loopy narcissist?’’ asked Brown. “Luscious Lisa, as we should surely call her now, irritates precisely because she does believe she merits such exposure. To make up for the weak public projection of husband Corey, she is deciding to stand by her man more zealously than Tammy Wynette.’’

Hey, the guy is knowledgeable in American trivia.

Another Telegraph columnist, Jim White, didn’t appreciate the pageantry that always has been part of the Cup, as it is a part of the Olympics, and pointed out the festivities – if that be the proper term – led to Pavin ignoring Stewart Cink during introductions.

“If we blame anyone for this celebration of the inconsequential,’’ insisted White, “it must be Europe’s opponents. The old adage about America having the geography and Europe the history is nowhere more evident than in sport.

“While the FA Cup has been running for 120 years without a two-day prologue, the 45th Super Bowl next year (sorry, Super Bowl XLV) will play out amid a welter of Romanesque pageantry. The Americans crave historical integrity and lard on the nonsense in the hope of achieving it. And, when they come over here, we feel obliged to follow the lead.’’

So a few anthems and some introductions distort the competition? Please.

What had a greater effect was playing the Ryder Cup the latest on the calendar most people can recall. That’s because the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup routine takes over September, an issue the Brits pursued like a cat chasing a mouse.

After the heavy rain on Day 1, executives revised the usual schedule, in effect squeezing three days of play into two-and-a-half. “Some smart people got together,’’ Pavin said of the change, “and tried to figure it out.’’

From the media peanut gallery, came a question. “You think a few more smart people should put their heads together and devise a new FedEx Cup schedule that will all this not to be played in October?’’

Pavin paused, then remarked, “I think let’s just stick with the Ryder Cup and talk about that.’’

For a week, that’s all anyone seemed to talk about. Or write about. The comments were hardly complimentary. Where did it all go so wrong?


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