Ryder Cup: Sergio rides high for the James gang

US 6 Europe 10: Underdogs repel fightback to take a four-point lead into final day
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The Independent Online
MARK JAMES and his European team expected an American fightback on the second day of the 33rd Ryder Cup at the Country Club of Brookline but they withstood the onslaught to square the day 4-4 and hold a 10-6 lead. Once more Sergio Garcia exemplified the team's emotional enthusiasm, Jesper Parnevik its brilliant shot-making and Colin Montgomerie its rock-solid core. But the hallmark of the side has been that everyone has made a contribution, even those cheering on the sidelines.

Only four points are required in today's 12 singles to retain the Cup, while the Americans, defeated in 1995 and 1997, are looking for eight and a half to win it back. The USA have won the singles seven times in the last eight matches and two years ago at Valderrama, when Europe led by five points entering the final series, they did so 8-4.

Garcia and Parnevik, an unlikely but highly effective combination of a 19-year-old Spaniard and an eccentric Swede, brought their tally to three and a half points out of four by squaring their fourball with Davis Love and David Duval at the final hole. After a comfortable morning foursome win, they had to show their resolve after trailing in the match four times.

At one point early in the afternoon, the USA led in all four games. But the trend over the two days has been for Europe to reverse early deficits and Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie took command on the back nine to beat Tiger Woods and Steve Pate 2 and 1. Monty was magnificent, holing clutch putts time and again before Lawrie birdied the 16th put the Scots two- up.

Throughout the day there were problems with spectators interrupting European players over putts, but the most unfortunate came with the last match on the last green when Miguel Angel Jimenez faced a long swinging birdie- putt. After recomposing himself, the 35-year-old Spanish rookie went agonisingly close to holing it.

A win would have put Europe five points up but Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal had to concede a half to Justin Leonard and Hal Sutton. "We knew the Americans would come out strongly today," said European captain James. "We knew there was a lot of golf left on the American side."

At times Crenshaw's chopping and changing in his pairings smacked of desperation, but he has only two players today, Woods and Sutton, playing for the fifth time. James, after a brilliant Friday when his side took a 6-2 lead, kept the same line-ups from the previous day for both the foursomes and the fourballs.

That means seven players must play five times and though the policy of riding established pairings is an old one, not even Tony Jacklin or Seve Ballesteros ever thought about sitting out three players until the singles. "It's not a question of relying on big guns," James said. "I had a feeling that some players are playing slightly better and to change tactics might have been dangerous."

Jean Van de Velde, Jarmo Sandelin and Andrew Coltart, one of James's wild cards, will get their only chance of playing the Country Club today. "The guys have done a good job yesterday and this morning and are on a roll," said Van de Velde. "I'll be a little tense for sure tomorrow but I'll be fresh." For the others, fatigue may be a factor.

Crenshaw sat out four players with earnings of $8.1m this season (Mickelson, Lehman, Duval and Love) in the morning, but each responded when sent out in the top two fourballs. As on Friday afternoon, the quality of play was of the highest order but for the first time the Americans joined in the brilliant shot-making.

After their morning foursomes win over Jim Furyk and Mark O'Meara, not to mention their epic victory over Woods and Duval the day before, Westwood and Clarke seemed to have run out of a bit of steam. With Mickelson having turned to a new putter and refound his confidence on greens after a series of agonising misses on day one and Lehman helping out with a 30-footer from off the green for a half at the ninth, the Britons could not win a hole until the 16th.

By then the Americans were already dormie-three up and Westwood could not extend the match with a birdie on the 17th as he had at the previous hole. "For the rest of the team to see the lead group doing some damage was very important," said Lehman.

Duval was transformed from the wayward and uncertain player of the day before when some of the crowd what shouted at him: "Some exhibition, hey." He came out to make a positive impression and when he holed an important putt at the 10th he danced around the green in celebration with far more animation than when he shot a 59 to win a tournament earlier in the year.

But no one can match Garcia for emotion and when Parnevik chipped in at the next to get back to all square, El Nino went into full running and skipping ecstasy. But they had to square the match again on the 14th and, after Love had birdied the 16th and Garcia had missed at the 17th, finally on the last. Both players had a birdie putt, but the 19-year-old elected to go first and sank his seven-footer for the half and set off more celebrations.

Crenshaw, after an emotional hour-long team meeting the evening before, sent his team out "to build the chain reaction" in the morning foursomes but Europe held firm to share the points. Woods finally got his first Ryder Cup win since the opening series at Valderrama, by one hole with Pate over Jimenez and Harrington.

But given that the Americans had birdied the first four holes and been three-up, it was a fine performance by the European pairing to taken them to the last. The best match saw Sutton and Jeff Maggert end the unbeaten run of Montgomerie and Lawrie. But they only won at the last after Maggert, the World Matchplay champion, holed a right-to-left 20-footer at the 17th, Lawrie seeing his attempt for the half stay on the right edge, and then hit his seven-iron approach stiff at the last.

The dramatic celebrations from Crenshaw and the American team spoke volumes for the parlous state of proceedings from a red, white and blue point of view. The first signs of the gallery getting to Monty came at the sixth when he had to back off a putt for a half and, after sinking it, punched the air with some vigour.

A camera flash then put him off at the ninth and after missing his birdie attempt, Sutton holed his to square the match. But the way in which Sutton geed up the crowd throughout the match disappointed the Scots. "Their behaviour was just ridiculous," Lawrie said. "I don't mind it when we've both played but to do it before the next opponent hits a shot, then it's just not on. If it means that much to them, then all the best to them."

Spirit of Garcia, page 3

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