Waterproof Woods treats crowds to both sides of his game

New York: Tiger Woods gave a 90-minute cameo that summed up his golfing year on Friday when he sprayed his ball to all corners of a sodden Celtic Manor, bar the fairways, but also produced one sublime, hole-winning shot.

Woods and Steve Stricker were one down to English duo Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher when fourball play on the first day of the Ryder Cup was suspended due to a waterlogged course with their match halfway down the fourth hole.

The pace of play was painfully slow as the overworked squeegee teams battled to keep the greens playable, but, as always when world number one Woods is around, his group drew the biggest crowds.

Having been given a hugely warm welcome at Thursday`s opening ceremony, Woods` arrival on the first tee was more low key and certainly overshadowed by that of Poulter who revelled in the football-style atmosphere engendered by the surrounding packed horseshoe-shaped stand.

Unlike most other players and the small army of caddies, assistants and officials, Woods opted, as usual, to forgo a waterproof jacket, instead wearing just a compression base layer, polo shirt and sleeveless jumper.

His caddie Steve Williams also seemed determined to show his disdain for the angry Welsh weather gods, sporting a short-sleeved shirt as he manoeuvred an umbrella deftly around his master while furiously towelling his clubs dry at every opportunity.

If Woods` plan was to avoid any restriction in his shoulders it did not seem to be working initially as he hooked his opening drive into the rough then hacked his second just 80 yards, an all-too-familiar shot for the sodden gallery of weekend warriors.

It did not take long for the world number one to make his mark, however. After a similarly scruffy start to the second hole, he threaded a glorious 100-yard wedge on to the narrowest landing zone and sank a four-footer for birdie to briefly level the match after Fisher had won the first with a par.

Woods would not have enjoyed taking almost an hour to complete the first two holes and, after two more wayward tee shots, he was not complaining when officials halted play with his group trudging into the teeth of the wind and rain up the fourth fairway.

Stricker, ranked the world`s fourth-best golfer, barely qualified as the fourth-best of his fourball grouping after a woeful set of early holes and will no doubt hope the rest of his round will rejuvenate his game.

Poulter had fired up the home crowd by sinking a superb, long birdie putt to win the par-three third for Europe to go one up before the players left the course for the clubhouse.

Bureau Report