Europe pay for Gallacher's error

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The Independent Online

reports from Rochester, NY

When Bernhard Langer employed his grotesque putting stroke to roll in a putt of around 50 feet at the ninth, the 31st Ryder Cup was perfectly poised. Europe were five up in one match, one up in another, five down in one match and one down in the other. After the foursomes the score was 2-2 and it was Langer, with a considerably shorter putt, who levelled the match at the 18th.

However, in the afternoon's fourballs, traditionally a European strength, the United States took the series 3-1 to hold an overall lead of 5-3. Poor old Prince Andrew, a keen golfer, arrived just in time to witness several European defeats.

Afterwards Bernard Gallacher, Europe's captain, admitted that he had made a tactical error. Gallacher had to decide on his afternoon pairings by mid-day. At that point Langer and Per-Ulrik Johansson were three up. Gallacher, who was sitting next to Ian Woosnam, turned to the Welshman and said: "I'm sorry Ian, I think they would both want to go out again."

Gallacher, therefore, named Langer and Johansson for the fourballs. What he did not know at the time was that their match would go the full distance and that not only was it a marathon but they both got soaked to the skin. They only had half an hour to dry themselves before going back out into the rain and in the afternoon they were beaten 6 and 4 by Corey Pavin and Phil Mickelson.

"Had I been able to pick the pairings at the end of the foursomes I would have brought in Ian Woosnam and Philip Walton," Gallacher said. "The trouble is you have to name your pairs while the players are still out on the course. I have told the team that I made an error and that it was my fault."

Langer, who missed the putt that cost Europe the Cup at Kiawah Island in 1991, holed a four-footer yesterday morning to clinch a one-hole victory with rookie Johannson over the seasoned Americans, Curtis Strange and Ben Crenshaw. It was a seminal moment for Langer and Europe after Gallacher had seen Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie fall to an agonising defeat.

The Anglo-Scottish pair, one of Gallacher's top rated partnerships, were beaten by Pavin and Tom Lehman, losing at the 18th after mounting a great recovery. Faldo and Montgomerie lost the first three holes and were four down after five.

By the 13th they were all square and it was of paramount importance to Europe to take at least a half point from the match. That they failed to do so was a crushing anti-climax and Big Monty would have been entitled to remark to Faldo at the end: "That's another fine mess you've gotten me into."

The US won with a par four at the 18th. Pavin embraced Lehman and Lanny Wadkins, the captain, embraced both of them. "That was one hell of a shot," Wadkins said of Lehman's approach at the 18th. Faldo's, on the other hand, was a shot from hell.

In the fourballs he and Monty were beaten again, this time by 3 and 2 against Davis Love and Fred Couples. The changes made at lunchtime by Wadkins were far more effective. He introduced four fresh players, mixing up all his fourballs whereas Bernard Gallacher stuck with three partnerships that played in the morning and all three were soundly beaten.

The only success Europe had in the afternoon came from the new pairing of Seve Ballesteros and David Gilford. "I just caddied for him," Ballesteros said. "David did all the work." Gilford was indeed impressive in a 4 and 3 victory over Brad Faxon and Peter Jacobsen. Whereas the US, at the end of the first day, had played all 12 members of their team, Europe had two on the bench, Ian Woosnam and Philip Walton. Woosnam is not completely satisfied with his form but there is no truth in the story that he asked Gallacher to be omitted.

Oak Hill soon became soak hill as torrential rain made the going heavy and slow. A sell-out crowd of 25,000 had to endure the most miserable conditions as, of course, did the players. As water began to settle on the greens, the ground staff got the squeegees out and this hampered the progress of the matches, particularly Langer's in the morning. A renowned slowcoach at the best of times, the German finally prevailed after 4 hours and 50 minutes.

The US posted the first point on the board when Love and Jeff Maggert defeated Mark James and Howard Clark 4 and 3. In eight foursomes matches James has lost seven; in five foursomes Clark has lost five.

Europe made it 1-1, Sam Torrance and Costantino Rocca beating Jay Haas and Couples 3 and 2. The American pair never recovered from an erratic start and by the time they had gone to the turn in 40 strokes they were four down. It was a marvellous result for Torrance and Rocca who did not contribute a point in the defeat at The Belfry two years ago. Originally Gallacher did not intend pairing the Scot with the Italian but he changed his mind on Thursday.

Before the start, Rocca, whose English is very limited, was asked if the language barrier would present him with a problem. After an interpreter had related the question Rocca replied: "No." After lunch the ageing Rocca and Torrance were trounced 6 and 5 by Maggert and an inspired Loren Roberts.

Last out in the morning, Langer and Johansson were never headed by Strange and Crenshaw but the Americans looked like snatching a half. Three down after 12 holes, they fought back to make it all square at the 17th.