Golf: Faldo inspires single-minded triumph

31st RYDER CUP: Captain signs off in style as Europe overcome two-point deficit to win on American soil for only the second time
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The Independent Online
Europe won the 31st Ryder Cup with a remarkable fightback in the singles at Oak Hill yesterday. It was only their second success on American soil and finally Bernard Gallacher, the captain, can go out on a winning note after an absorbing day's play. It was as famous a victory as that achieved by Tony Jacklin at Muirfield Village in 1987.

Europe appeared to have a critical edge when Nick Faldo came good. He beat Curtis Strange at the 18th and that put Europe 131/2-12 1/2 ahead. Faldo, who had lost three games out of four in the foursomes and fourballs, was one down with two to play and won the 17th with an eight-foot putt.

At the 18th Strange hit a perfect drive whereas Faldo was in the left rough. The Englishman could not hit the green in two. Neither could Strange. His approach was short as was his chip. Faldo, after laying up, pitched to within four feet of the flag: Strange missed his putt from nine feet and Faldo holed out to win one up with a four. An emotional Seve Ballesteros, crying like a baby, gave Faldo a hug.

The United States had begun the day with a 9-7 lead and needed only five victories from the 12 singles to retain the Cup. With Europe striking some early blows, the match, almost inevitably, went the distance. Faldo's victory was Europe's sixth and the attention then focused on Philip Walton and Jay Haas.

Walton, the 33-year-old from Malahide, near Dublin, was making his Ryder Cup debut. He went three up on Haas with three holes to play but at the 16th Haas holed out from a bunker and also won the 17th. Walton, who has transformed his game by using a "broomstick putter" missed from four feet and the tension and the pressure of the Cup affected both of them at the 18th.

Haas drove into the trees and the best he could score was a five. Walton, despite not hitting the fairway, was able to make five and thus win the match one up. It was the point that guaranteed the Cup for Europe, giving them the magic figure of 141/2. It also meant that the final game, between Phil Mickelson and Per-Ulrik Johansson was irrelevant.

The Americans got the start they needed when Tom Lehman defeated Seve Ballesteros 4 and 3. The extraordinary thing about this match is that it went to the 15th. Ballesteros was all over the place. He did not hit a fairway until the 10th hole by which time he was only one down. However, Lehman won the 11th, 13th and 14th holes.

The game was not without incident. At the 12th Lehman left a putt inches short and looked at his opponent. What Lehman expected was an agreement from the Spaniard to concede the putt. He did not get it and Lehman tapped the ball in. Ballesteros pointed out that Lehman had putted out of turn. It made no odds. Ballesteros, who wanted the American to mark his ball in order to use the marker as a guide, then missed the putt to win the hole. He took a six at the next. His remarkable powers of recovery finally deserted him.

"I just didn't hit the tee shots straight," Ballesteros said. "It's been that way all week. When you're not hitting the fairways then you are in big trouble on a course like this." The incident at the 12th was not a reflection on the sporting nature of the match as a whole. When Howard Clark had a hole in one at the 11th against Peter Jacobsen, it was the American who led the celebrations. The ace, following Costantino Rocca's hole in one at the sixth on Saturday, enabled Clark to go all square and he went on to win one up. That ace turned out to be crucial.

Mark James had given Europe its first point in the singles, and his first of the match, when he got the better of Jeff Maggert 4 and 3. James, who had not played since being beaten with Clark in Friday morning's foursomes, said: "I was nervous all the way round. The pressure in these things doesn't get any easier to handle. This was the toughest yet. I was nervous on every shot but that's good. It gives you a bit of adrenalin."

Colin Montgomerie and David Gilford kept Europe's hopes alive. Montgomerie defeated Ben Crenshaw 3 and 1 and Gilford was involved in a nail-biting finish with Brad Faxon. Gilford won the 14th to go one up and he held that advantage to the 18th. However, the game looked like being halved when Gilford put his approach shot left and beyond the green.

The Englishman has an impressive game but chipping is his Achilles heel. It was a difficult shot, down hill and through an apron of rough. He failed to get the ball through the grass and when he chipped again he sent the ball about 15 feet past the flag. Then he holed the putt for a five. Faxon had a chance to win the game to give the US a half point but he found a bunker with his approach shot and put his third five and a half feet beyond the flag. He missed the putt and Gallacher embraced Gilford in a bear hug.

Ian Woosnam looked as if was going to enhance Europe's cause. The Welshman was two up on Fred Couples after 10 holes and was one up with two holes to play. The 17th and 18th are par fours but they play like par fives. Couples won the 17th with a three to make the game all square and that is how it finished after Woosnam's putt for a three, the hole and the match, slipped just past the cup. Woosnam slumped to his knees.

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