Golf: Montgomerie and Garcia show the way

RYDER CUP: United States left regretting missed putting opportunities as Europe are inspired by their No 1 and teenage sensation
Click to follow
The Independent Online
LED BY their six-time No1, Colin Montgomerie, and the infectious enthusiasm of Sergio Garcia, the first teenager ever to play in the Ryder Cup, Europe took a totally unexpected 6-2 lead after the first day of foursomes and fourballs in the 33rd match against the Americans at the Country Club of Brookline. A day of holed shots from off the greens and even from the fairway meant the action lived up to its billing as the most exciting event in the game, but the home side continued their poor form in the paired matches.

Garcia and Jesper Parnevik won twice in the day, defeating Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk by one hole as Europe added an afternoon fourball victory to their early foursomes win.

Perhaps the most significant moment came as dusk was falling when Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke, who had earlier been defeated by Hal Sutton and Jeff Maggert in the foursomes, defeated Tiger Woods and David Duval at the last in a titanic contest.

Ben Crenshaw, the US captain, had turned to the top two players in the world in an effort to turn the morning tide but now Woods, with his second defeat of the day, has only won two of his ten paired matches in Ryder and Presidents Cups. "Our guys played great golf but they kept grazing the hole," Crenshaw said. "We need a few more putts to go in."

Only a 25-foot birdie putt from Davis Love on the final green prevented Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie from winning twice in the day. They had to settle for a half when Monty missed from 12 feet but in a close-fought match the Scots lost only two holes but only held the lead after winning the 17th.

The lead is the biggest on the first day since Europe were four ahead at Muirfield Village in 1987. "This is a great start," the European captain, Mark James, said. "But I am aware there is a lot of points to play for. It's a long battle and I'm sure Ben has a few trump cards to play yet. The striking thing is the standard of play. Both teams have played fabulous golf."

The 19-year-old Garcia was always going to enjoy his Ryder Cup debut but even by the standards of his short professional career - he only turned pro in April - this was extraordinary. His occasional erratic play could not detract from the amazing ability in someone so young to inspire his partner to brilliance.

Parnevik made five birdies in the first 10 holes in the afternoon as well as holing out from 104 yards for an eagle-two at the eighth. Garcia rushed over for a bear-hug and Parnevik allowed the youngster to pick the ball out of the cup. But Mickelson and Furyk hardly wilted under the Swedish onslaught and the Furyk chipped in for a birdie on the 13th to level the match.

But at the par-five 14th, Garcia came up with a piece of brilliance to pitch in himself for an eagle and regain the lead. "I realised I had to do something," Garcia said, "because as well as Jesper was playing he could not play all 18 holes against them on his own."

Unfortunately for Mickelson, as in his morning match, it was his putting fallibility that decided the contest. The left-hander dragged a two-and- a-half footer wide at the 16th and, to halve the match at the last, missed a six-footer on the right. "I feel for Phil," Parnevik said. "No one deserved to lose the match."

Garcia and Parnevik had to come back from early deficits in each of their matches. Tom Lehman chipped in from behind the first green and he and Woods were two ahead after only five holes. But the Spanish-Swedish combination responded by winning the next to holes and Parnevik clinched a 2 and 1 by holing from eight feet at the 17th.

"We knew it would be a tough match," Garcia said. "But we held our games together well and at the end we were playing really well."

After sitting out a series for the first time in his sixth Ryder Cup, Jose Maria Olazabal teamed up with Miguel Angel Jimenez to beat Sutton and Maggert 2 and 1 in the afternoon. The Spaniards were never behind and though Ollie was still unhappy with some of his tee shots, his putting produced vital birdies.

"It was a tough decision not to play this morning but I thought it was the right thing to do," Olazabal said. Jimenez and Padraig Harrington gained an important half point in the foursomes against the experienced duo of Love and Payne Stewart.

Montgomerie's influence over such an inexperienced European team could not be overlooked. The Scot belied his putting problems in recent regular tour events and in the top morning foursome against Duval and Mickelson holed two 10-footers on the first two greens for halves. As steady as Monty was, Lawrie got over an edgy start to play his full part.

Three of the four players in the game were men who have long been expected to win a major. But it was Lawrie, the Open champion, who struck the first shot of the match. Understandably, his swing suggested a few nerves but the drive only just leaked into the right rough.

"It wasn't a nice experience but a great one to have," Lawrie said. "I'll look back on it for a long, long time." Their 3 and 2 victory gave Europe the first point and the Scot did not drop a shot. Montgomerie said: "I had been putting very poorly up to this stage but the Ryder Cup brings out the best in me. What an event this is - is there anything else like this in sport?"

Richard Williams, page 30