Italian revels in his little miracle shot

Tim Glover describes how Europe were lifted by an ace performance
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The Independent Online
THE plaque on the sixth hole at Oak Hill would not have escaped the attention of Costantino Rocca. Set in a large lump of rock the message in stone says: "On June 16th, 1989 in the US Open Doug Weaver, Mark Wiebe, Jerry Pate and Nick Price holed in one during the second round."

Yesterday morning in the series of foursomes, Rocca thought about using a six iron on a bright but breezy day and in the end settled for a five iron. His ball skipped just in front of the flag, took a couple of hops and disappeared into the hole. The crowd, far more sporting than the rednecks who created mayhem during the so-called War on the Shore at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, four years ago, gave such a yell of delight that if you had not seen Rocca's little miracle you might have thought it had been produced by a native of New York.

In 1989, when the famous four pulled off the trick, they all used seven irons and the flag was situated front right. Yesterday morning it was front left. Rocca's ace in the hole put him and Sam Torrance four up against the hitherto unbeaten Davis Love and Jeff Maggert. It was a particularly delicious moment for the 38-year-old Italian.

On his Ryder Cup debut at The Belfry two years ago, Rocca was two up with three holes to play against Love and he three-putted the 17th, missing the second putt from two feet, before squandering the match at the 18th. In America his surname was mispronounced to rhyme with Choker.

Europe, and Rocca, were not choking in the foursomes yesterday morning. Rocca and Torrance, one of the oldest partnerships in the history of the Ryder Cup, went on to demolish Love and Maggert 6 and 5. It was an extraordinary performance from the veteran duo.

When Rocca holed that five iron at a hole which has the sobriquet of Little Poison, a man in the crowd yelled: "You've got to buy the drinks today." This related to a golf custom: Make a hole in one and you have to buy everybody in the club house a drink. It can be an expensive round.

After Rocca had reduced the 167 yards of Little Poison to a cry of "what's your poison", Love hit a tee shot that was almost as good. His ball pitched just beyond the flag, spun back and finished no more than four feet from the hole.

However, Maggert was not required to putt. "I wanted to crack a joke," Love said when he saw Rocca's ace. He did not. "Those guys played really, really well," Love added. "I knew that Sam was trying to fire Costantino up. He kept saying you beat him, you beat him."

There is another plaque at the sixth hole which says: "Denonville with an army of 3,000 French and Indians crossed these grounds twice in July 1687." They were, of course, fighting the British.

Whatever the French and Indians accomplished they would not have received such a rousing ovation that greeted a chubby little Italian on these grounds yesterday morning.