Morning glory for Europe

The Ryder Cup: Gallacher's men stage a fightback as the Americans' lead is whittled away in the foursomes
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The Independent Online
WITH a hole in one that defined a splendid morning, Costantino Rocca punched the gap through which Europe stormed to restore their footing in the 31st Ryder Cup. Responding to a bright morning and a brisk, chill wind blowing off Lake Ontario, Europe forced themselves back into the match after their demoralising defeat in Friday afternoon's fourballs.

The last time Europe were in the States to contest the Ryder Cup they lost the War by the Shore at Kiawah Island in 1991. At dawn yesterday they were facing the Wake by the Lake. By lunchtime it was the Americans who had cause for concern as the form shifted dramatically.

Only in one match, featuring their undoubted star, rookie Loren Roberts, and Peter Jacobsen, did they succeed in taking the lead. That wasn't until the 13th hole of their match against Ian Woosnam and Phil Walton but they held on to it to register America's only success in their 3-1 session defeat. The other three matches were won comfortably. Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie gained their first point and for the second successive session David Gilford earned a point while partnering a senior member of the team.

On Friday afternoon it was Seve Ballesteros. Yesterday morning it was Bernhard Langer. In both matches it was Gilford who starred to completely erase the memory of his sad debut at Kiawah Island four years ago. Yesterday he and Langer faced the tough partnership of Corey Pavin and Tom Lehman, and their 4 and 3 victory owed much to Gilford's accuracy.

Europe's dynamic start had Rocca's ace as its spectacular centre-piece but contained much else that staggered the overnight confidence of the Americans. Before and after his ace Rocca had been at the forefront of the charge. Cynics might have thought that whoever chose the European clothing yesterday had an odd sense of humour. Given Rocca's reputation for choking, it was tempting providence to send the team out wearing bottle green sweaters.

But the Italian played with a determined solidity that saw him hole six- footers on both the second and fifth greens to improve a lead that rarely looked threatened by Love and Maggert. Torrance splashed out a near-perfect bunker shot at the ninth to pile up their lead to five holes. Torrance's broomstick applied the coup de grace on the 13th for a 6 and 5 victory.

The point thus gained was soon followed by another from Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie, who always seemed to have the measure of Curtis Strange and Jay Haas. The worrying lack of form displayed by Europe's top pair surfaced once or twice during the morning but they took a comfortable victory that was vital to Europe's cause.

The delayed arrival of Woosnam and Walton promised success when they went two up after four holes, but despite some promising play they had to give best to very good opposition. But any disappointment was compensated by the surge that was led by Torrance and Rocca.

After their victory in Friday's foursomes, the merciless dispatch of Torrance and Rocca by Loren Roberts and Maggert in the afternoon fourballs was not the least of the disappointments. But Roberts had been in such devastating form for a man playing his first Ryder Cup match there was some excuse for their defeat.

"They messed up two holes but the Americans played exceptionally well in the others," said Bernard Gallacher, who confidently kept the pair together for yesterday's foursomes. It was a sound decision and Gallacher deserved his relief from the tensions of Friday. His confession after the first day's play that he had left out Ian Woosnam in error did nothing to lift the gloom over Europe's poor performance in the fourballs that sent them off to bed 5-3 down on the day.

Gallacher will suggest that future Ryder Cup captains have more time before they have to announce their afternoon pairings. Having to hand them in by noon, he stuck with Langer and Johansson, who were three up at the time. They promptly got involved in a long and exhausting struggle and were at a decided disadvantage in the afternoon.

Even a suspicion of that would have persuaded him to play Woosnam and Walton instead. It also affected his planned order of play. He had intended to put Faldo and Montgomerie out last and they would have met the crack American pair of Pavin and Mickelson instead of Langer and Johansson. The rout might then have been avoided. Certainly, there was nothing wrong with Gallacher's strategy the following morning.

In sharp contrast to the deluge of Friday, yesterday dawned bright but cold and the foursomes teed off directly into the barely risen sun. This was not the only difference. The hooters and hollerers behind the first tee shuffled in unaccustomed silence as the first three US players missed the fairway. Curtis Strange, Jeff Maggert and Peter Jacobsen all found nasty rough and left their partners with problems that cost the hole.

An ironic cheer greeted the sight of Tom Lehman's drive landing on the fairway in the final match. By that time the US had fallen further into arrears and 13 holes had been played before a Davis Love putt gave the home side their first win of the morning. By that time the Europeans had won 10 and halved two to lay the foundation of a great comeback.