Americans hoping for last-gasp heroics

JUST AS after two days at Brookline a fortnight ago, America's golfers appear to have little chance of winning the Alfred Dunhill Cup. Once again they need an unlikely set of results to go their way but this time the heroics are required just to be allowed to tee it up on Sunday, when the semi-finals and final are contested.

JUST AS after two days at Brookline a fortnight ago, America's golfers appear to have little chance of winning the Alfred Dunhill Cup. Once again they need an unlikely set of results to go their way but this time the heroics are required just to be allowed to tee it up on Sunday, when the semi-finals and final are contested.

Although all four teams in Group One have a win apiece and the opportunity to top the table, their chances of progressing are not all equal. America must beat Sweden 3-0 today and hope New Zealand win against Italy, but only by a 2-1 margin. Any other combination of results will see Mark O'Meara, Payne Stewart and Tom Lehman get the day off tomorrow.

The No 1 seeds find themselves in this predicament after being whitewashed by Italy on the second day of round-robin matches on the Old Course. Meanwhile, the Kiwis responded to their defeat by the Americans on Thursday by defeating Sweden 2-1.

The United States team have two players from the world's top 10, while Lehman is at No 23. Italy have two players outside the world top 200 and Costantino Rocca, who never contended for a place at Brookline after playing in the three previous Ryder Cups, at No 121. Rocca's season was marred by an injury last Christmas when he sliced off a portion of his thumb while trying to open a bottle of red wine.

The Italian captain led by example to beat O'Meara in the top match by two strokes, although the American scored a birdie at the 17th to close the gap to one playing the last.

Lehman also found himself one behind playing the last and when Emanuele Canonica safely made his par, Lehman picked up his marker, failing to realise he had to hole out under the medal-matchplay format where aggregate scores may still come into play this afternoon. Lehman, who was given a one-shot penalty, said: "I wasn't thinking. I'm breaking all the rules this week."

Massimo Scarpa, whose birdie at the last beat Stewart by a stroke, said: "To beat the United States is a great day for us. Last night this was a dream for us, now it is reality. Costantino said we could win."

After losing to Japan yesterday, Scotland have to beat Australia today and then await the result of Paraguay and Japan. The Open champion Paul Lawrie was involved in the best finish of the day, losing to Katsuyoshi Tomori at the 19th. Lawrie led by a stroke but took a double-bogey six at the 17th.

Lawrie responded by holing his pitch from 77 yards with a mid-wedge at the last for an eagle-two, just as Craig Parry had done to condemn Japan to defeat the previous day. But Tomori almost followed Lawrie in, claimed his birdie and then hit his approach to three feet at the first, where Lawrie three-putted. "He is a hell of player and hit a class shot at the play-off hole," Lawrie said.

In Groups Three and Four simplicity prevails, where the decisive games are England against South Africa and Ireland versus Spain. The South Africans were all under 70 to dismiss the Indians while Lee Westwood, trying to shrug off a heavy cold, beat Zhang Lian-Wei of China 69-72.

It was probably less than diplomatic, however, for Westwood and Mark James, now positively giddy with irreverence without the cares of the Ryder Cup captaincy, to cast aspersions about the Old Course. "I don't have any particular affection for the turf, in a sacred sense," James said. "I played here in the Walker Cup and thought there were 15 blind holes and wasn't keen on the other three. Every round is the same here, I make two birdies and two bogeys."

Said Westwood: "For history and tradition there is nowhere like it in the world but I don't think it's the fairest course. It wouldn't be in my top 200." "In the east of Scotland?" James chipped in. "In Fife," Westwood rejoined.

But Sergio Garcia, who beat Nick Price by three strokes after a 67, is enthralled on his first visit. "I also had the same as yesterday, six birdies and one bogey, so maybe Mark is right," the 19-year-old said.


GROUP ONEUnited States 0 Italy 3 (US names first): M O'Meara 72 lost to C Rocca 70; T Lehman 74 lost to E Canonica 72; P Stewart 72 lost to M Scarpa 71.Sweden 1 New Zealand 2 (Swe names first): G Hjertstedt 72 lost to M Campbell 71, P Sjoland 74 lost to M Long 73, J Sandelin 69 bt G Turner 70P W L Games Shots PtsWonSweden 2 1 1 4 426 1NZ 2 1 1 3 434 1Italy 2 1 1 3 443 1US 2 1 1 2 438 1

GROUP TWOAustralia 1 Paraguay 2 (Aus names first): P O'Malley 73 bt R Fretes 76; S Leaney 74 lost to A Franco 73; C Parry 70 lost to C Franco 70 at 20th.Scotland 1 Japan 2 (Sco names first): S Torrance 76 lost to I Aoki 71; P Lawrie 71 lost to K Tomori 71 at 19th; G Orr 69 bt T Yoneyama 71.P W L Games Shots PtsWonJapan 2 1 1 3 425 1Australia 2 1 1 3 429 1Paraguay 2 1 1 3 434 1Scotland 2 1 1 3 435 1

GROUP THREESouth Africa 3 India 0 (SA names first): E Els 69 bt J Singh 72; R Goosen 67 bt V Kumar 75; D Frost 68 bt J Randhawa 74.England 2 China 1 (Eng names first): L Westwood 69 bt Zhang Lian-wei 72; D Howell 75 lost to Cheng Jun 70; M James 72 bt Wu Xiang-bing 74P W L Games Shots PtsWonS Africa 2 2 0 5 418 2England 2 2 0 4 432 2China 2 0 2 2 434 0India 2 0 2 1 436 0

GROUP FOURSpain 2 Zimbabwe 1 (Sp names first): S Garcia 67 bt N Price 70; JM Olazabal 67 bt T Johnstone 73; MA Jimenez 73 lost to M McNulty 68.Ireland 2 France 1 (Irl names first): D Clarke 67 bt M Farry 75; P McGinley 74 lost to J Van de Velde 70; P Harrington 73 bt JF Remesy 74P W L Games Shots PtsWonIreland 2 2 0 5 424 2Spain 2 2 0 4 421 2France 2 0 2 2 431 0Zim 2 0 2 1 432 0

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