Europe ready to become lords of the Manor after Westwood leads charge
Montgomerie's men hold 9½ - 6½ advantage going into historic extra day as Woods and Mickelson fall well short once again.
Monday 04 October 2010
The first Monday finish of the Ryder Cup will see the Americans attempt to achieve their own, slightly more positive, first. After a stunning European fightback which rivals any in the 83-year history of this match, Corey Pavin's men trail 9½ - 6½. Never before on away soil has either of the teams come back from such a large deficit going into the climatic 12 singles.
No, the forecast for the Starred and Striped is not good, but blessedly the evil rain is predicted to stay away. For Saturday night and Sunday morning it poured and poured, meaning there was no chance of the traditional denouement. Yet as the debate continued to rage of the absurdity of staging the game's most-watched event in a Welsh valley in October, an enthralling encounter brought a much-needed distraction to all the recrimination.
And by taking the third session (four fourballs and two foursomes) by the ridiculously one-sided scoreline of 5½ - ½, Colin Montgomerie's believers have made themselves huge favourites to retain the trophy they would have lifted for six of the last eight matches. Expect the big Scot to blub, in between sounding even more Churchillian.
Yet there can be no doubt the on-course leader is Lee Westwood. For the sixth time out of seven head-to-heads in the Ryder Cup, the Englishman beat Tiger Woods. Indeed, the world No 3 trounced the No 1, inflicting on the fallen idol a 6&5 embarrassment, his biggest beating.
Westwood rushed back out to see his team-mates at first struggle to protect the overnight advantage which saw up in all six games. But then in the final 90 minutes came their second surge which has most probably taken the match beyond the visitors.
When the singles tee-off at 9.05am, Pavin's men will doubtless be looking to the example of Brookline in 1999 when they grabbed the glory from a 10-6 reversal. But that was conjured with the most hostile crowd in the Ryder Cup spurring them on. Today, when the singles begin (fog-willing) there will be a Welsh chorus ringing out "Olé, Olé" on every tee, every fairway and every green.
At least the US will console themselves with the thought it could be worse and today's exhilaration could have been yet more intimidating.
Alas this will be no People's Monday as only the Sunday and ticket-holders will be admitted to the singles. The organisers weren't admitting it but they are anticipating no more than half of yesterday's attendance. What a shame, what a disgrace even, that a showdown which has provided so much spectacular light through all that depressing gloom will not be seen by a capacity. Yesterday's electric atmosphere should have been a mere taste of the euphoria to come. Saying that, they had so much to cheer as the four and a half hours they did get to watch yesterday – after being locked out in the morning – was vintage Ryder Cup. The momentum swung with the volatility unique to this event. First the Euros, then the US, then the US again. Twenty20 golf at the Twenty Ten.
As soon as play resumed Zach Johnson holed a 40-footer on the eighth and so the feverish tone was set. What followed was an afternoon of spectacularly celebrated highlights and, in the opening acts of this delicious drama, it was the US lighting the fireworks.
The Europeans had been warned by their captain. "The Americans will come out fast, you come out faster," was the note Montgomerie pinned to the team-room wall. As it proved, they initially laboured to keep up.
Jeff Overton holed with a wedge from 100 yards on the eighth and for half of a minute was a contortion of body-pops and fist-pumps. His partner, Bubba Watson, was even more animated, jabbing into the air for a full minute. Yet perhaps the prize for ecstatic improvisation went to young Rickie Fowler who actually tried to high-five a marshall when chipping in for an eagle from an almost impossible position in the bunker on the 11th. "USA! USA!" bounced around the valley
It was punctuated with European yelps, most significantly when Westwood converted his own 40-footer on the 10th. It was the stand-out moment in a display packed with them. Even allowing for the fact that partner Luke Donald's foursomes record now stands at played six, won six, the performance of Westwood should not be underestimated. He has not played for seven weeks because of calf injury and was clearly feeling the effects of fatigue on Saturday. He has become the new Monty.
They couldn't all follow, as the US launched their resurgence. The scoreboard remained a sea of blue (an insensitive analogy) for a little while but then in two hours the Europeans won one hole between them – and that was when Dustin Johnson three-putted for a birdie. It seemed Pavin's men would hold the advantage going into the extra day, but then after the barren hours came the golden three minutes which heralded the U-turn.
First, Francesco Molinari drove the par-four 15th and his two putts clawed back an all-square scoreline for himself and his brother, Edoardo, over Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar. Then Ross Fisher holed a 12-footer on the 17th, meaning he and Padraig Harrington could hug for the second time in as many days, with Jim Furyk and the hapless Dustin Johnson the victims. Then Miguel Angel Jimenez dropped an 18-footer on the 16th par four he could barely reach to grasp the lead over Watson and Overton. The rookies were suddenly heads down rather than hands up.
A home march had been bugled and so they strode to the clubhouse knocking aside Yankees in the process. The only resistance came from Cink and Kuchar but even they were denied. Francesco had missed short putts all day but in the shadow of the clubhouse and under the biggest gaze in golf he at last found the centre of the cup from three feet to make the birdie which earned the brothers their half. What a crushing blow that was.
A three-shot cushion is so much more comfortable than two points, particularly when so many of Pavin's big guns are misfiring. Mickelson has lost all three games and with 17 defeats in his Ryder Cup career is now, officially, America's biggest loser. He and Woods must restate their quality today or else the curtain will drop. And drop early.
Fourballs (European pairings first)
Match 1 L Westwood & M Kaymer bt P Mickelson and D Johnson 3&2
Match 2 R Mcllroy & G McDowell halved with S Cink and M Kuchar
Match 3 I Poulter & R Fisher lost to S Stricker & T Woods 2 down
Match 4 L Donald & P Harrington lost to B Watson & J Overton 3&2
(Europe 1.5, USA 2.5)
Match 5 E Molinari & F Molinari lost to Z Johnson & H Mahan 2 down
Match 6 L Westwood & M Kayner halved with J Furyk and R Fowler
Match 7 P Harrington & R Fisher bt P Mickelson and D Johnson 3&2
Match 8 M A Jimenez & P Hanson lost to T Woods & S Striker 4&3
Match 9 I Poulter & L Donald bt B Watson & J Overton 2&1
Match 10 G McDowell & R Mcllory lost to S Cink & M Kuchar 1down
(Europe 4, USA 6)
Match 11 L Donald & L Westwood bt S Stricker & T Woods 6&5
Match 12 G McDowell & R Mcllroy bt Z Johnson and H Mahan 3&1
Match 13 P Harrington & R Fisher bt J Furyk & D Johnson 2&1
Match 14 P Hanson & MA Jimenez bt B Watson & J Overton 2 up
Match 15 E Molinari & F Molinari halved with S Cink & M Kuchar
Match 16 I Poulter & M Kaymer bt P Mickelson & R Fowler 2&1
(Europe 9.5, USA 6.5)
* Only once in the last 15 years has the team trailing ahead of the singles matches gone on to win. USA overturned a 10-6 deficit in 1999 to win 14.5-13.5. Europe have won the last two competitions in which they led going into the singles.
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