Festival of golf played out on atmospheric 18th
NEWPORT (Reuters) - Not too far away from Celtic Manor, back across the Severn Bridge, the Glastonbury festival is synonymous with oozing mud and rock music.
There were acres of the brown stuff to wade through in the Usk Valley on Saturday but it was the world's top golfers conducting the crowds as the Ryder Cup finally came to life.
Players from Europe and the United States put on a dazzling display as organizers clawed back some of the seven hours lost in Friday's deluge with a rare feat of match play golf.
By the end of the day, as darkness fell, Europe trailed 6-4 but the scoreboards were a sea of blue in the six matches out on the course. Sunday, if the predicted rain holds off, has all the makings of being one of the most exciting in recent years as Colin Montgomerie's side try and wrestle back the trophy.
Fitting then that the purpose-built Twenty Ten course boasts some of the best spectator viewing in the world and nowhere does the drama unfold more spectacularly than on the steeply banked slopes running the length of the 16th, 17th and 18th holes.
Down below the corporate hospitality buildings where the lucky ones got to keep their feet clean and drink champagne, the muddy masses assembled in the huge amphitheatre of 18th green.
In the morning sunshine as Friday's interrupted fourballs reached their conclusions and by the time the six foursome matches came down the stretch, the atmosphere was electric on the churned up grass terraces.
"This really is one of the best places I've ever seen to watch golf," 42-year-old Kendall Gammon, a former NFL player with the Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints, told Reuters as he and friend Tim Sinclair cheered Jim Furyk's stunning approach to the last that allowed partner Rickie Fowler to snatch a half from Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer.
"It's so impressive. Whoever designed this course and especially this finishing straight did a great job. It's like being on a football terrace and the atmosphere is crazy.
"What I like too is how the fans are so dedicated here. They just stand for hours and make camp. They're not just here for autographs and beer, they really are into the golf."
Many fans carried radios, some had hired hand-held televisions showing coverage from other parts of the course while the large screens scattered around the layout relayed all the key moments.
Huge cheers rang out regularly in the distance as European putts rolled in but the American fans, some dressed in stars and stripes outfits and Uncle Sam hats, were equally vocal, if hugely outnumbered.
"Go Cinky baby" one American yelled out as Cink lined up his wonder putt on the 17th green and when the ball disappeared below ground he could hardly contain himself. "Like a rat down a hole...." he screamed at the giant video screen.
Some of the most boisterous fans trailed Northern Irish duo Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell but they could only groan in disappointment when McIlroy fluffed his chip at the 18th to hand the Americans an unexpected turnaround win.
None of the day's later matches reached as far as the final three holes and fans trudged off the slopes to tackle the treacle like mud.
Thousands will be back up above the 18th on Sunday, however, when the destiny of the Ryder Cup will be decided on what could become one of the world's great golfing stages.
(Editing by Mitch Phillips)
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