Monty hails Casey and the sunshine band

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The Independent Online

If not the best European team, the deepest. Bernhard Langer had selected his words with caution on Friday evening when he was asked for his analysis of his European team, when others may have summoned hyperbole. His words were to prove prophetic here yesterday, after Colin Montgomerie found himself, for once, after a sequence stretching back to Brookline, in 1999, confounded by a Ryder Cup challenge.

If not the best European team, the deepest. Bernhard Langer had selected his words with caution on Friday evening when he was asked for his analysis of his European team, when others may have summoned hyperbole. His words were to prove prophetic here yesterday, after Colin Montgomerie found himself, for once, after a sequence stretching back to Brookline, in 1999, confounded by a Ryder Cup challenge.

Yet, even as the veteran of seven such tournaments prepared to join his non-playing team-mates as cheerleader-in-chief during the afternoon foursomes session from a buggy, with - God forbid - the assistance of a $10 radio round his neck, the same basic instrument as spectators and media use, two European rookies, Paul Casey and David Howell paired together, were frustrating the US revival

It is true that some mysterious happenings occur in these parts - only last week, the local newspaper informed us thatlocal taxes were destined to decrease - but the manner in which the European duo recovered from a hole down after the 16th to claim the point will rank with them in local folklore.

"It's amazing. We came into the team room as if we had won the morning session," declared the Scot, who with Padraig Harrington, had been defeated 3 and 2 by Stewart Cink and Davis Love during a morning when a Tiger Woods-inspired US appeared revitalised.

"Then we go out, Darren Clarke is on the first tee hearing all this and they immediately win the first hole [of the afternoon foursomes] as well. So, it's amazing how what happens in one game does transcend into others. You know, to send out two rookies together is sometimes a risk. But it was a huge, huge victory for them this morning. Too win the last two holes was massive."

Even then, Montgomerie could not have known how significant that triumph would be as Langer's men assumed emphatic control once more.

Earlier, things had appeared rather less secure. It had been but one short putt for Stewart Cink, a man whose mission in life is holing out economically. It was one giant leap for team US - a leap of faith for a team who had suffered as no other in Ryder Cup history the previous day, and for whom captain Hal Sutton's promised reaction was, as he put in that inimitable style of his, "not to be loving on them".

Whatever the mood of the team meeting that followed that statement, his beleagured team responded with something approaching the desire that the galleries had prepared their whoops and hollers for since Brookline, but which had been so muted on Friday. The significance of Cink's putt on the first green yesterday morning was not merely, of course, that Sutton's Desperate Dozen could luxuriate in going one up. More, it was a defining moment because for the first time in 143 holes - sinceBrookline in 1999 - Montgomerie was behind in a Ryder Cup match.

Just as the dual defeat of Tiger Woods on Friday represented a seismic fracturing of golf's foundations this side of the Atlantic, so the spectacle of Montgomerie and Harrington being undermined by Cink and Davis Love in the last match of the morning, was a symbolic assault on the totem of the European game.

Langer had been asked about the psychological damage to Woods and Phil Mickelson the previous evening and, given his immaculate conduct here thus far, may have been expected to reach for a bland answer in his diplomatic bag. Not so. He knew that the effect of the talismanic Woods' defeat, particularly the loss in the afternoon foursomes after he and Mickleson had been three up, would have had a devastating impact on the American psyche. He drove the point home, a stake to the American heart: "It was a huge psychologically, a huge blow to the Americans and a huge help for the Europeans," he reflected.

However, he was astute enough to appreciate that, with Montgomerie providing a beacon for his team's hopes and prayers, the situation could quite easily be reversed. The German had assumed correctly, as it transpired, that when an influential component fails, as the partnership of Montgomerie and Harrington did yesterday morning, there remains a potency among the Europe supporting cast, no more so than in the figures of the rookies Casey and Howell and, almost inevitably, Luke Donald. The latter completed the day for Europe, after another profitable association with the admirable Sergio Garcia, by holing out at the 18th for an 11-5 overnight score.

In truth, that defeat by Montgomerie had been a mere blip on a near-exemplary Ryder record. His emotional investment in those opening three matches was demonstrated by the fact that he asked to sit out the fourth, the foursomes. It was the first time he had been a Ryder Cup spectator since his debut at Kiawah Island in 1991. "I didn't play well," he admitted. "I've never said 'sorry' before and I did today [to Harrington]."

Yesterday morning, we had been forced to review those impressions of Europe being a nest of harmony, and the US team being a haven for egotistical individuals. Suddenly, Woods was smiling again. Maybe, it was simply that he was playing with an amiable Ryder rookie, in Chris Riley, not Mickleson, who had been demoted to spectator for the morning session. Maybe the team captain had got it right, almost by default.

The style of Sutton is reminiscent of the pilot, Major T J "King" Kong, in the film Dr Strangelove, a patriotic redneck who has been dispatched on a bomb-dropping mission that cannot be aborted. On Friday night, Sutton must have felt as helpless. The headlines yesterday morning had exemplified the dissatisfaction among the American media. Woe is US put it most succinctly.

Early yesterday, without Mickleson, the Tiger began to bare his teeth. By the afternoon, that hunger had all but abated. All we witnessed was the world No 2 muttering his discontent through pursed lips. He recognised by mid-afternoon that the United States faced an impossible task. Ultimately, it was not Montgomerie but Europe's unconsidered rookies who saw to that.

Paul Trows performance guide of Team Europe

Paul Casey

Must have been a bit frustrated by being forced to miss out on Friday's excitement, but Langer was clearly employing the captain's psychology which is his prerogative to ensure he got the best out of the young English firebrand. The fact that Casey was paired with another rookie, Howell, showed how highly the top brass now regard him.

Darren Clarke

Clarke, now a stalwart of the European team, helped fellow cigar smoker Jimenez to extinguish Love and Campbell in Friday's fourballs. His pairing with Poulter yesterday never got off the ground, but he picked up two foursomes points with his old mate Westwood against Woods and Mickelson on Friday, and DiMarco and Haas.

Luke Donald

Began his first Ryder Cup match - as the only rookie trusted by Langer to contest the opening fourballs - by earning a gritty half in tandem with McGinley and holing several key putts in a 2 & 1 foursomes victory with Garcia over Perry and Cink. Reunited with the Spaniard last night for a thrilling last-green success over Furyk and Funk.

Sergio Garcia

The young Spaniard has turned into one of the iron men of the European team. His 5 & 3 fourball win with Westwood against Toms and Furyk was relentless, and they followed up with a battling half yesterday. In the foursomes, he and Donald sank Perry and Cink 2 & 1, and achieved the coup de grâce last night by seeing off Furyk and Funk.

Padraig Harrington

One legacy of his two victories in harness with Monty on Friday was the passing of Europe's torch to a new custodian. Beating Woods and Mickelson in the opening exchange unhinged the US, but after losing yesterday's fourball, Harrington linked with fellow Irishman McGinley in an heroic foursomes win over Love and Woods.

David Howell

Europe's quiet man came of age alongside Casey in a compelling fourball with Furyk and Campbell yesterday. Having patiently sat out Friday's play, Howell did not disappoint when his turn came. After a mildly tentative opening, he soon settled. In addition to hitting most greens and fairways, he kept holing putts of increasing importance.

Miguel Angel Jimenez

The Spanish veteran is as long in the tooth competitively as he is in the hair stakes. As Johnny Miller said, if you have a pony tail you'd better be tough. Jimenez proved this from the off with a big fourball win alongside Clarke against Love and Campbell. Fell twice in the foursomes as Levet struggled with his putter, but far from disgraced.

Thomas Levet

Paired in both foursomes with Jimenez, his partner in an entertaining final round at the BMW International Open in Germany. Maintained his cheerful disposition despite missing a few fairways in the 3 & 2 loss against DiMarco and Haas, and struggling on the treacherous greens during yesterday's 4 & 3 defeat by Mickelson and Toms.

Paul McGinley

The Irishman, who holed "that" putt at The Belfry two years ago, proved his relish for Ryder Cup competition is undiminished with a superb rearguard action to qualify for Europe's team. Helped Donald to a worthy fourball half with Riley and Cink, then aided his compatriot Harrington in yesterday's foursomes win over Woods and Love.

Colin Montgomerie

Cometh the hour - 08.10 eastern time on Friday - and a Ryder Cup giant awoke from two years' slumber to justify skipper Langer's wild-card faith. In tandem with Harrington, it was the imperious Monty of old as Woods, Mickelson, Love and Funk were taken to the cleaners. Oh, and there was a miracle, sideways chip thrown in for good measure.

Ian Poulter

After sitting out Friday's matches with admirable patience, European supporters yearned for Poulter to get off to a fast start in his fourball match yesterday with Clarke against Riley and Woods. Unluckily, he struggled for a couple of holes and then felt the backlash of Tiger's Friday disaster with Mickelson while Riley bagged five birdies.

Lee Westwood

The depths to which Europe's former No 1 sank before rising to his current pinnacle are particularly hard to fathom in light of his three and a half points. His fourball efforts gave Garcia a solid platform; and in his two foursomes wins, over Mickelson and Woods, and DiMarco and Haas, he never gave partner Clarke a moment's concern.