Ryder Cup 2006: Casey's touch of brilliance caps the clinical dissection

Masterstroke with four-iron at the 14th steals the glory, but the real story is one of expert planning and execution by Woosnam's wonders
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The Independent Online

With one swish of his four iron, Paul Casey summed up this match here yesterday. At five-up with five to play, the Englishman did not really need to produce a hole-in-one to close out his foursome. But hey, this is America and this is the Ryder Cup. May as well make the victory spectacular.

And that, essentially, is what his continent promises to do today when Ian Woosnam sends his 12 singles out with a 10-6 advantage. All they need is 4 1/2 points for an unprecedented third win in a row and although Ben Crenshaw effected such a miracle in 1999, this America does not seem anywhere near capable.

It will take more than just the fabled team talk by George W Bush in 1999 to rescue Tom Lehman's team. They are down and they are all but out, a truth surely borne out by the fact that Tiger Woods happens to be their joint highest points-scorer. All told, it was another unsatisfactory day for this uneasy Ryder, despite he and Jim Furyk playing their best golf of the week to defeat Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley in the afternoon's final foursomes. The morning session had brought a defeat to Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood and there, effectively, the Saturday headlines were written. Woods woeful. Europe ecstatic. Here comes the Cup.

The home side won that opening session 2 1/2 - 1 1/2, just as they had done in the two sessions on Friday and, remarkably, just as they were to do in yesterday's afternoon foursomes. This, thus far, has been a clinical dismantling and Lehman will know the main reason why. Out of a possible seven points, the partnerships of Woods and Furyk and Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco have collected 2 1/2. "That is unacceptable," said Di Marco. In fact their entire day was - and it needs explaining.

But first to that four-iron and Casey's ultimate salt-rub. Playing with David Howell against Zach Johnson and Stewart Cink - who had been among America's few successes in the fourballs - Casey was sizing up the 213 yards to the pin on the 14th green when Woosnam came over. "The captain had told me to take another club," he said. "I did. It happened to be the right one."

His shocked celebration was the enduring image of the day, although Clarke had run it close with his grandstand finish. After he and Lee Westwood had made the most of Woods's continued torment to coast to three up - the gap would have been even wider had Westwood's putter obliged - Clarke was off the par-five 16th green in three, needing a chip-in birdie to half the hole and win the game.

Soon he was running across the putting surface having a mid-air high-five with one friend in Westwood, and being graciously congratulated by a second in Woods.

In beating the world No 1 he was fulfilling a promise. When Woods heard about Clarke's selection he texted him: "Nice to see you in the Ryder Cup team." Clarke replied: "You won't be saying that when I kick your ass at the K Club." Many a true word and all that...

And there was plenty of reason to jest as, having beaten Mickelson and DiMarco the previous day, Clarke and Westwood had just seen off Lehman's other supposed crack pairing; not bad for a couple of wild cards whose right to be in Co Kildare was at first questioned in certain quarters.

"Some said we were a gamble," he said. "The only people who thought it was not a gamble were the two of us."

That was not exactly true as Woosnam, himself, obviously had no worries, as he has proved with the faith he has shown this week, especially with Westwood who has been one of the three iron-men to play in every session. Another, of course, is Garcia, who was not quite the flawless conquistador of Friday in his fourball with Jose Maria Olazabal but was still dashing enough to scamper clear of Mickelson and DiMarco who bemoaned a series of Spanish putts from the eighth through the 10th, which had them four down on the 11th tee.

It was all but game over and as the holes counted down to the inevitable handshakes it was possible for the mind to wade through the imponderables. Is Sergio the new Seve to Ollie's old Ollie or is Ollie the old Seve to Garcia's new Ollie?

At least there was the top match to focus the grey matter and how enthralling Paul Casey's and Karlsson's tussle was Stewart Cink and J J Henry was. In an uncanny rerun of their Friday fourball, the big-hitting Euros stole an early advantage only for the Americans, inspired by the ever-more impressive Henry, to nick them back and actually went to the final hole one to the good.

But when Henry three-putted, Casey had a four-footer to level it and, like Montgomerie the night before, accepted the chance with nerveless relish. Usually the captain feels utterly helpless in situations like this, although Lehman must wished that he had have been, as it was his read on the eight-footer which would have won it for Henry that was ultimately erroneous, if only by a matter of millimetres.

Henry would have been better left to his own devices as he holed a couple of beauties on the 16th and 17th. Poor old Lehman: say nothing, be damned, say something be damned unlucky. The pressure was growing on him as lunchtime arrived to inspire a seismic change in his foursomes pairings and some daft dolts were even suggesting dropping Woods. "That'd be impossible, wouldn't it?" said Lehman, at a loss to know who would provide the answer to that particular question.

For the duration of the break in the team-room, the Starred and Striped hoped it might be Zach Johnson, as the rookie had made seven birdies in 17 holes when seeing off Henrik Stenson and Harrington 2 & 1. But he couldn't. Nobody could. Mickelson, with his new partner, David Toms, might have been fancied to, but if anything Garcia seems even more comfortable with Luke Donald than he does with Olazabal and their 2 & 1 win was cosy.

The Spaniard's Ryder record now makes incredible reading. Out of the last nine matches he was earned 8 1/2 points and in this form seems a lock today to become the first European to win five points in a single match. He is undoubtedly Woosnam's shining star. But then again, last night the Dublin sky was full of them.