Comeback kids who sent Europeon way to victory
Monday 20 September 2004
Even aside from Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson losing twice on the opening day, the point that meant most in this Ryder Cup came when Paul Casey and David Howell, won the last two holes of their Saturday morning fourball
To the literal minded, which seems to include most of the American players, all 28 matches that comprise the Ryder Cup have the same numerical worth. To those familiar with team competition, it is fully understood that some points are worth more than others.
Even aside from Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson losing twice on the opening day, the point that meant most in this Ryder Cup came when Paul Casey and David Howell, a rookie pairing, won the last two holes of their Saturday morning fourball to keep the Americans four points adrift when they appeared to be closing within two.
A clean sweep had been on the cards for the home team but the experienced duo of Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood grabbed half a point from the top match. Casey and Howell were the only European pairing to lead at any stage but their two-hole advantage at the 10th disappeared when Jim Furyk birdied the next three holes.
Howell had got his team back to level by birdieing the 15th but they promptly lost the next when Chad Campbell holed from 40 feet.
The 17th is an uphill par-three of 200 yards and Howell was on the limit for his six-iron but though he did not strike it as purely as he hoped, the ball finished six feet from the hole. Casey was over the back but chipped to three feet and made sure of his three.
"That was a great thing because it was an unbelievably difficult up-and-down, but if Paul had made four I would have had to think about the one back" Howell said. The Swindon player had hit a terrible putt on the first green but now rolled in the birdie effort.
"I was more nervous on the first than I was on the 17th," he said. "I was really proud of the stroke I made on 17, and when I looked up and saw it was going to go in, I was delighted."
Howell, who has barely played a handful of events in the States, had to leave it to Casey, the former American college No 1, on the 18th. With a five-iron from 202 yards, Casey was the only player to hit the green and he judged the speed of his 40-foot putt over the spine of the green perfectly. It left a two-footer which he buried.
"From my point of view, with me in serious trouble, that's one of the best par-fours I've ever seen," Howell said.
Both players were on winning Walker Cup teams and despite not playing on Friday were ready when called upon by Langer. They were the first rookie partnership playing their first matches to win for 25 years.
"Not many people may have heard of me," Howell said, "but my team-mates have and we weren't afraid to go out and take on their guys. It was almost good for us not being paired with an experienced player, because we both had to get stuck in and not leave it to a Monty or whoever.
"Even without looking at the boards, we were fully aware that we were the light at the end of the tunnel and needed to come through. We were getting hammered as a team but we dodged a bullet."
Despite losing the session by a point, Europe had regained the initiative. "What Paul and David did this morning was unbelievable," said Darren Clarke. "Lee [Westwood] and I were on the first tee ready to start the foursomes and the feeling we got from those guys turning a loss into a win put us on a high. It was massive for the team."
Hal Sutton, the US captain, acknowledged the harm the result did for his team. "It took some energy away from my players, but more importantly, it gave them energy," he said. "They fed off it and then held us off in the afternoon. The momentum switched right there."
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