Golf: Europe united in toasting Seve's greatest triumph

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The Independent Online
Seve Ballesteros, whose fabled golfing career has been driven by destino, achieved his greatest moment by captaining a European side that retained the Ryder Cup in his homeland.

Europe's 141/2-131/2 victory at Valderrama was the same margin by which they won the Cup at Oak Hill two years ago. Though Bernhard Langer ensured Samuel Ryder's gift to golf would remain on this side of the Atlantic by taking his team to 14 points, it was Colin Montgomerie's half against Scott Hoch that gave Europe the win that Ballesteros had demanded.

"This is my best ever win," Ballesteros declared. "I have won five majors, six order of merits, a lot of great tournaments around the world, but I have felt nothing like this."

He was presented with the Cup by the Infanta Maria on the steps of the Valderrama. But Her Royal Highness very nearly handed it back to the American captain Tom Kite, after his team won the singles 8-4.

"My guys were 31 under par and that is awesome golf in these conditions," Kite said. Former President George Bush had addressed the US team on Saturday night. "It does not matter what he said, but that he was there for us."

"We knew it would be hard," Ballesteros added. "I don't believe the Americans lost, the Europeans won. My players played with heart and that is why they won." While Kite went for points at the top of the singles to get back into the match, Ballesteros had packed the lower order with the players whom he thought could most take the pressure.

After Langer had gone dormie-two up at the 16th on Brad Faxon, Jose Maria Olazabal, whose return to competition had been the highlight of the European season up to now, could have made it a fairytale ending but for Lee Janzen winning the last three holes of their match. The American, one of Kite's wild card selections, holed from 14 feet at the 17th and then hit a seven- iron to three feet at the last.

Back at 17, the hole Ballesteros designed, Langer had two putts for his win after Brad Faxon missed a birdie putt from 10 feet. The celebrations were not as wild as at Oak Hill, since the job was not completed. Suddenly Montgomerie, 10th in the order and expecting a "walk in the park", was the man in the pivotal position.

However, it was not until the 16th that he took the lead against Scott Hoch, who promptly knocked his wedge from the rough at the 17th to a foot. But Montgomerie, by now soaked, took the advantage at the last by hitting the fairway and the green. Once he had coaxed his putt up to the cup, it was all over. "It was a nerve-wracking experience," he said.

"I'd always said that I'd prefer to do it myself than rely on someone else, but I'll take that back. Someone else can do it next time." Of Ballesteros, he added: "I think Seve is a brilliant captain and leader. He has done a fantastic job this week."

But Ballesteros has decided to stand down from the post. "I am not going to be the captain in 1999," he said. "I want to recover my game and I want to play in two years' time. I would like to be the captain again, but may not for a while, maybe in Ireland in 2005."

The three foursomes that resumed many hours earlier ended level with a win for either side and a half, leaving Europe leading by five points, 101/2-51/2, the same margin by which they were ahead going into the singles at Muirfield Village 10 years ago. Then America fought back to lose by only two points. While Ignacio Garrido volunteered to go out in the bottom match, a request Ballesteros was willing to grant given the way the Spaniard was putting, Ian Woosnam wanted to be top.

The Welshman reckoned he would come up against Fred Couples for the third successive match, and he was right. They had halved the previous two matches, but Woosie bogeyed the first and then Couples went seven under for eight holes to win 8 and 7 at the 11th. The result equalled the heaviest ever defeat, inflicted by Kite on Howard Clark at The Belfry in 1989.

Garrido picked the wrong man in Tom Lehman and had run out of steam. He lost 7 and 6, but Lehman, like Mark O'Meara and Jeff Maggert, was in superb form. When Nick Faldo found the putts not dropping, he took that element out of the equation by hitting his approach at the 14th to two inches and his tee shot at the 15th to two feet. But Jim Furyk countered by chipping in for a half on the first occasion, and holing a bunker shot on the second before securing a 3 and 2 win.

By now the Cup was retained, leaving Monty in the hot seat to clinch the victory, but only thanks to the earlier efforts of not just Langer, but Per-Ulrik Johansson, Costantino Rocca and Thomas Bjorn. Johansson, who had not played since the first morning, won three holes in a row from the 13th while defeating Love 3 and 2.

In the context of the week, in which Tiger Woods was the only American to play five times but won only one and a half points, his defeat to Rocca, who gained three points alongside Langer, was not a surprise. As at the three majors since Augusta, Woods was ill at ease on the course and found no inspirational way back from being four down at the turn.

It took Leonard only four holes to attain that lead over Bjorn, but the Dane showed his mettle was of the tungsten variety by squaring the match on the 10th. He needed to level the score three more times before winning the 17th by holing a six foot putt. "That was the worst putt I've had in my life," Bjorn said. "It was lucky I made it. When I was four down after four, I thought all I could do was stick with it."

But he missed the fairway at the last and though the Open champion was in sand in two, Leonard holed from 10 feet to halve the match. "There has been a lot of talk about Tiger Woods and how great the Americans are," said Langer, "but we have a lot of great young players, too."

The 32nd Ryder Cup Europe 141/2

United States 131/2

Overnight

Europe 9 United States 4

After completed foursomes

Europe 10 1/2 United States 5 1/2

Singles result

Europe 4 United States 8

Completed Overnight Foursomes

Hole

Par

Yards

4 4 3 5 4 3 4 4 4 4 5 3 4 4 3 4 5 4 71

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Total

389 399 173 535 381 163 461 345 441 364 547 197 402 370 200

N Faldo & L Westwood (Eur)

S Hoch & J Maggert (US) won 2 & 1

4 3 3 5 3 3 5 4 5 4 5 4 4 4 C 4 5

4 4 3 6 4 2 5 4 4 3 5 3 4 4 2 4 5

J Parnevik & I Garrido (Eur) halved with J Leonard & T Woods (US)

5 4 3 5 4 3 3 4 3 C 5 3 4 4 2 5 5 4

3 4 3 5 4 3 4 4 4 3 5 3 4 4 3 4 5 4 69

J M Olazabal & C Rocca (Eur) won 5 & 4 D Love & F Couples (US)

4 4 3 4 3 3 3 4 3 4 5 3 3 3

4 3 3 4 4 3 4 5 5 5 5 3 4 3

Key

3

Indicates winner of hole; C = conceded; W = won

Yesterday singles

Hole

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Total

I Woosnam (Eur)

F Couples (US) won 8 & 7

5 4 3 4 4 3 4 5 4 4 5

4 4 3 3 3 2 4 4 3 3 4

P-U Johansson (Eur) won 3 & 2 D Love III (US)

4 3 3 5 3 3 6 3 5 4 4 3 4 3 3 4

3 4 3 5 4 3 3 4 5 3 4 3 6 4 4 4

C Rocca (Eur) won 4 & 2

T Woods (US)

3 4 3 5 3 3 4 4 4 4 5 3 4 4 3 4

4 4 4 5 4 3 4 4 5 4 4 3 4 4 3 5

T Bjorn (Eur) halved with

J Leonard (US)

4 5 3 5 3 3 4 4 3 4 5 3 4 3 4 4 4 5 70

3 4 2 4 4 3 4 5 4 5 4 4 3 4 3 5 5 4 70

D Clarke (Eur)

P Mickelson (US) won 2 & 1

4 4 3 4 4 3 5 4 3 4 C 3 4 4 3 4 4

4 3 2 3 4 3 5 5 5 4 3 3 4 5 3 3 4

J Parnevik (Eur)

M O'Meara (US) won 5 & 4

4 4 2 5 5 3 4 4 4 4 4 3 5 3

4 3 3 4 3 3 3 3 4 4 4 3 4 3

J M Olazabal (Eur)

L Janzen (US) won by 1 hole

4 4 2 5 4 3 5 4 4 3 5 3 3 4 3 5 5 4 70

4 4 3 5 3 4 4 3 5 4 5 2 4 4 4 4 4 3 69

B Langer (Eur) won 2 & 1

B Faxon (US)

4 4 2 5 4 3 4 4 5 4 5 5 4 4 3 4 5

4 4 3 5 4 3 5 5 4 3 5 2 5 5 3 4 5

L Westwood (Eur)

J Maggert (US) won 3 & 2

4 3 3 4 5 3 4 4 4 3 5 3 3 4 3 3

3 3 3 4 5 2 4 4 3 4 4 3 3 4 3 3

C Montgomerie (Eur) halved with

S Hoch (US)

4 4 3 5 5 4 3 4 5 4 5 3 4 4 3 4 5 4 73

4 4 3 5 3 3 4 4 5 4 5 3 4 5 3 5 4 4 72

N Faldo (Eur)

J Furyk (US) won 3 & 2

3 C 2 5 4 4 4 4 5 3 5 3 4 3 2 5

4 4 3 5 4 3 4 3 5 3 4 3 4 3 2 4

I Garrido (Eur)

T Lehman (US) won 7 & 6

4 4 4 5 4 3 5 3 4 4 5 4

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