Golf: Americans in single-minded fightback

RYDER CUP Europe's players struggle to hold a late charge by US team apparently emboldened by shirts depicting past heroes

NEEDING ONLY four points to retain the Ryder Cup, Mark James and his European team knew it was not going to be easy in yesterday's singles at the Country Club of Brookline. But no one was quite prepared for the strength of the American fightback.

Starting four points down, double the biggest comeback margin in 32 previous matches, the United States faced the prospect of losing an unprecedented third consecutive match. Their players appeared for the singles in shirts designed by Ben Crenshaw and featuring photographs of the Ryder Cup and previous winning American teams.

On Saturday evening the US skipper had announced: "I am a believer in fate and I have a good feeling about this." It was even better when America took control of the top half of the draw, creating a sea of red on the scoreboard. Not for the first time, while the Europeans seemed to hole all the putts on the first two days, it was the Americans, now with the responsibility of playing on their own, who were doing so yesterday.

All three of the players James had sat out of the opening two days were among the top-six in his order. It was Open runner-up Jean Van de Velde who fell first, losing 6 and 5 to Davis Love, while, in something of a grudge match, Phil Mickelson beat Jarmo Sandelin 5 and 3.

The other three were all players who had played in every series and might have suffered from fatigue. In the vital top match, Lee Westwood lost 3 and 2 to Tom Lehman, who hit every fairway and every green and has not lost any of his three singles, and then Hal Sutton beat Darren Clarke 4 and 2 to tie the match. It would be up to those in the bottom of the draw to decide the cup's ultimate destination.

Europe's 10-6 lead going into the singles, after a second day in which the points were split 4-4, was one point less than their best ever, at Muirfield Village in 1987, and at Valderrama two years ago. Once again, on Saturday the standard of play was superb, with the difference that the Americans were sharing in the brilliant shot-making.

After halting Europe's momentum by halving the morning foursomes, the US needed to recoup some ground in the afternoon fourballs and, early on, led in all four matches. David Duval, after sitting out in the morning, was back to his best and showing an appreciation for an event he had virtually dismissed prior to playing in it for the first time.

Phil Mickelson rediscovered his putting touch and almost holed out from the fairway. Davis Love hit a brilliant second from the top of the rocky outcrop by the dogleg of the par-five ninth, an area known as the Himalayas, to six inches. Hal Sutton, at the short 16th, was merely a few millimetres away from achieving America's first hole-in-one in the Ryder Cup.

But, somehow, the Europeans hung on. Miguel Angel Jimenez had virtually to carry his compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal, but the Ollie's vast experience of such occasions meant he could talk his partner through the drama. Jimenez birdied three holes in a row from the fourth to go two-up and, though Sutton's shot at the 16th squared the match, the Spaniards hung on for an important half.

The other squared match involved the unbeaten Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik. Having won their first three matches, the stunning effective mix of the youngest Ryder Cupper ever and one of the most eccentric had to pull back level four times against Love and Duval, finally doing so at the 18th, when Garcia holed from seven feet. The youngster's unconfined joy has been reminiscent of Seve Ballesteros.

"Sergio has been a replacement for the young Seve," said James. "He is definitely a force that this team has felt positively. And Jesper is a very hard man in matchplay. He's the perfect foil to Sergio. Plus, he's a pretty good weight so Sergio can lift him which has proved to be an advantage."

Colin Montgomerie proved the other strong man and, with Open champion Paul Lawrie, won two and a half points. In their 2 and 1 victory over Tiger Woods and Steve Pate, Monty holed out superbly on the back nine and then Lawrie hit his tee shot stiff at the 16th. "They are both very good teams playing pretty well under pressure," James said. "We are seeing some great golf, unbelievable stuff," said Crenshaw. "There are been some tremendously hard-fought matches, superlative golf. We're just so close." Yet, the Americans were left trailing, just as they were at Valderrama, and Crenshaw had no idea why US teams have recently underperformed in the foursomes and fourballs.

"We're still trying to figure that out," he said. "Whether they feel better with talking over a shot with a partner, they do a very fine job at it. I wish I could break down the differences. It's something we could talk about all evening."

The influence of the captains can be overstated, but while James went back to basics, Crenshaw perhaps overanalysed. James settled on his main pairing and kept with them. "There was nothing particularly deep involved," he said. "Those guys wanted to play with each other, simple as that."

But Crenshaw only used two pairings more than once and, having played Sutton and Jeff Maggert three times, with two important wins, should have kept them together. "It was all too complex to tell you the things I was thinking about," the US captain admitted.

Crenshaw stated before the match that he had tremendous flexibility in pairing any of his players and that all 12 were playing well in practice. The former turned out to be a complicating factor and the latter did not continue once the competition began. Woods, Mickelson and Leonard only contributed a point each, and Duval half a point.

Where James gambled was in leaving out three players - Andrew Coltart, Jean Van de Velde and Jarmo Sandelin -- until yesterday's singles. Only two players, Michael King in 1979 and Gordon J Brand in 1983, had suffered a similar indignity, and not even ruthless leaders like Tony Jacklin and Seve Ballesteros considered such a tactic.

The potential drawbacks were in leaving the threesome cold in the vital head-to-head contests, and that the seven players who were playing for the fifth time in three days would be tired. "It was a very difficult decision to make," James said. "It probably helped that they knew every step of the way how we were thinking.

"Decisions of that nature tend to be taken by the team, and it helped that Jarmo, Jean and Andrew have been tremendously supportive. It's a great shame they were left out, but I came here with the object of getting 100 per cent out of this team and the most points I could."

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little