NEWPORT, Wales -- The two flatbed golf carts hurriedly pulled up in front of the clubhouse at Celtic Manor, loaded with several brown cardboard boxes. Hand-written letters were clearly visible on the packing slips affixed to the sides.
Words like men's large, women's medium and Proquip.
|For most of the morning, Tiger Woods didn't even bother with half of his U.S.-issued raingear. (Getty Images)|
"Are those new rain suits?" I asked a guy as he grabbed a box.
He eyed my media credential.
"Possibly," he said warily.
In an XXL-sized cock-up, as they say hereabouts, the Americans were caught with their pants down in the opening moments of the 38th Ryder Cup. Also with their jackets off. You could call it Watergate if that one hadn't already been worn out.
All week long, the American team has been the butt of many jokes because of their atrocious attire, but aesthetics became a secondary issue in Friday's best-ball session when it was quickly learned that the team-issued rain gear had become notable and noticeable for another reason.
A complete inability to repel water.
Earlier this week the manufacturer of the rainwear. Sun Mountain Sports, posted this statement on its Twitter page: "May the team with the best outerwear win."
So far, that's exactly what has happened.
After play was suspended following two hours with the U.S. team trailing in three of four matches -- the Americans had rallied to lead when it was called for the day -- officials used the weather delay to purchase new raingear for the players and wives from the merchandise tent, which in a place like rainy Wales is like admitting they showed up unaware that the natives drive on the left side of the road.
The original U.S. gear, adorned with ugly white stripes that looked like something worn by an Alabama chain gang, also featured the last names of the American players, akin to a baseball warmup jacket. Jokes have been flying all around. Players noted early in the week that they weren't particularly effective in warding off the practice-round drizzle.
Then the sky caved in on them in buckets.
American swing coach Butch Harmon, serving as an analyst on Sky Sports this week, said in the U.K. broadcast: "They look ridiculous. ... They have names on them? They know who they are."
We know who's going to get blamed for it, too.
The president of Proquip, based in Scotland, is a guy named Richard Head. Funny, but a slight variation of that name was being used to describe U.S. captain Corey Pavin, who either signed off on the raingear or delegated that authority to his wife, who handled the U.S. uniform particulars.
"It didn't perform the way we would have liked it to perform, so we have remedied that and have some new raingear," Pavin said during the delay.
Absurdly, nearly every male member of the U.S. delegation was adorned in the raingear during a driving storm on Friday morning, replete with their names on the back, as they huddled around the first tee. That would include PGA of America CEO Joe Steranka and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.
One of the last things outgoing European captain Nick Faldo said at the closing ceremonies two years ago about the upcoming matches in Wales was, "Bring your waterproofs."
European Tour commissioner George O'Grady, stationed at the first tee and watching the soppy proceedings as play began at 7:45 a.m., looked at an ocean of umbrellas and said, "Nick Faldo was right."
Guess not everybody in the States was listening.
Parked beside O'Grady, European Tour rules official John Paramor said, "This looks like a scene from Caddyshack."
He meant the scene with the bishop playing in a driving rainstorm, not that Pavin looks about as capable of leading the American team as Judge Smails. At least, I think that's what Paramor meant.
Maybe it was no coincidence that Tiger Woods removed his rain jacket before every shot Friday morning, and that when he walked off the course when play was suspended, he didn't bother putting it back on.
It begs some obvious questions. If you are piloting the U.S. team and heading to a place where it's known to rain, oh, nearly every single day, what would be the single-most important piece of equipment in the bag?
Quite right. By midday the course had turned into a proverbial Welsh bog and the U.S. was sapped and soaked, figuratively stuck in the middle.
At minimum, choosing function over form would have seemed advisable, but this particular gear was as ugly as it was ineffective.
Rory McIlroy, via his Twitter account, posted the following from inside the European team room during the lengthy rain delay: "Just have to say our waterproofs are performing very well!"
Added former Ryder player Oliver Wilson, who is working with the BBC this week, via his Twitter account: "Just seen some U.S. waterproofs up close, they're terrible! They feel like they retain moisture, not good quality!"
Paul Azinger, the winning U.S. captain in 2008 and an analyst this week for ESPN, said on the air that the raingear is the "easiest thing to get right."
If that's true, it makes you wonder how the rest of the week will proceed, doesn't it?