Ryder Cup 2006: Garcia's electricity sparks US power cut

Irresistible force of Garcia reduces Americans to mere bystanders in a European pageant
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The Independent Online

It would perhaps be going a little too far to suggest that the giggling, tactile, always- ready-for-a-hug Sergio Garcia is a modern-day El Conquistador. His only comparison with those mercenaries of the Spanish monarchy, associated with the brutal conquest of the Americas, is an ability to put the wind up anyone from that continent who gets in his way.

The charismatic 26-year-old continued to plunder and loot points, as once again his sheer ebullience illuminated the Palmer course here yesterday on an afternoon, when dark, brooding clouds, and the displeasure of the heavens, made it for spectators, something of a Glastonbury experience. Yet, as they tramped around these 7,300 yards of County Kildare in pursuit of the Spaniard and his English partner Luke Donald, the pair who complement each other so splendidly, they were quite content to revel in mud, glorious mud, as they witnessed the flow of blood - American blood.

It had been Garcia's day, magnificently so, on Friday, and so it was again yesterday, as the man they call El Niño wrought havoc to the visitors as he appeared at the tail-end of Hurricane Gordon. No matter that he is still "the best golfer never to win a major", as some contend - though Colin Montgomerie would no doubt fight him for that right - in these circumstances, he is in his element.

It was not until the seventh that the anticipated European momentum established in the morning by Garcia and his compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal in the fourballs had been fully restored. There were some delightful moments. Garcia had looked devastated after Donald had set him up with a beautifully placed approach shot on the second, but the Spaniard spurned a relatively simple putt to go one up. He stood there for several seconds, hands on hips, like Stan Laurel, utterly bemused by what had befallen him. Yet, you know that within Garcia there is no dwelling on such reverses.

There had been mighty bear-hugs with Olazabal after they had seen off Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco in that earlier match. It is remarkable to reflect that it was back in 1986 when a then 21-year-old Olazabal performed an impromptu dance of victory after a similar point secured in his first Ryder Cup at Muirfield Village.

Since then he has contributed to the most successful partnership in the history of the competition, winning 15 out of 17 matches as partner of the cavalier Seve Ballesteros. Yet, before this week he had not played in the event since the Americans stampeded over his putting line on the final green at Brookline in 1999. Twenty years on from that first appearance, the crowd were celebrating with the Spnaish pair and chanting "Ole, ole ole". Olazabal, a candidate for captaincy in Chicago in six years' time, acknowledged the joie de vivre that Garcia brings to the party. "He's young, that sums it up," he said. "He is full of energy and loves this event. I just know that whenever you play with a guy like that you are relaxed. You know you can count on him on pretty much every hole." Woosnam added: "When you have two guys like Jose Maria and Sergio who are absolute brimming with confidence and spirit - that Spanish spirit - then you know they only have winning on their minds."

Come the afternoon, this time opposed again by Mickelson, who was partnered by David Toms, it was the same result; not quite the same response. When Garcia's somewhat more reserved English partner holed out for a birdie at the par-five 16th, Garcia restricted himself to relatively restrained high-fives. By then, both he and Donald knew that the match was theirs. The Americans conceded defeat at the 17th, and the pair embraced.

Garcia now has maximum points from his four matches here, a feat which extends his Ryder Cup record to played 19, won 14. Afterwards the Spaniard had a simple explanation for their successful relationship. "I think Luke and myself, we make a really good couple, and it's because on this course he just hits the drives down the middle. I somehow get it around the hole and he taps it in. It works perfect."

It defined yesterday's fortunes for both teams. A watching Darren Clarke who was rested by his captain Ian Woosnam for the afternoon, puffed contentedly on a cigar. Woosnam's counterpart Tom Lehman, put a finger to his lips, and was a study in suffering as he surveyed a board on which once more blue was the colour; winning was Europe's game. It was Mickelson's seventh defeat in his last nine Ryder Cup matches. While the United States slough of form continued, at least Woods was fighting for pride, if not victory, in tandem with Jim Furyk, against the Irish pair Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley. You hear arguments that he doesn't care. It is not true, and here was evidence when he and his partner could have capitulated, as all around him, his fellow Americans were doing. He will no doubt emerge strongly in today's singles. Maybe his team-mates will do as well; but all too belatedly.

There was one nasty incident in the Garcia-Donald triumph, when a woman spectator suffered a bad cut on the head after Toms hit a wild drive down the 11th - she left in an ambulance. She appeared to be relatively unscathed, just dazed and confused. Just like the United States.

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