Strange twist of fate

Ken Jones sees Faldo and Montgomerie enjoy a change in fortunes
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The Independent Online
IT WAS inevitable that when Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie, the strongest partnership here, failed to secure a point on the first day, heads would be turned.

They could perhaps be forgiven defeat by Tom Lehman and Corey Pavin in Friday's foursomes having taken part in one of the great Ryder Cup matches. However a 3 and 2 loss to Fred Couples and Davis Love in the afternoon fourballs was a big disappointment.

Pride ensured a considerable improvement, and after turning for home three up they restored sense to proceedings by defeating Jay Haas and Curtis Strange 4 and 2 in the foursomes.

Going out directly into a blinding sun, the Europeans got exactly the start they wanted when Strange played two shots that suggested this was a bit early in the morning for a golfer of his advanced years. First he drove left beneath the low branches of an oak, leaving Haas a difficult stroke, and then sent the ball from sodden rough into a greenside bunker. Faldo meanwhile had found the green and two putts secured the hole.

Considering that Strange is no better than 41st on the US money list, his inclusion as a captain's pick had been questioned in many quarters and he did not appear to draw much inspiration from a victory at Oak Hill in the 1989 US Open championship.

Appearing to catch the ball fat, Strange put his partner in trouble again at the first of the par threes when his tee shot fell short into a bank below the green. Faldo had fired to about six feet but Haas played a fine recovery to ensure that hole was halved.

Faldo and Montgomerie went two up at the next as the result of considerable good fortune. Common practice at the fourth is to open up the green by playing across the corner. In attempting to go boldly around it Montgomerie found high trees only to see the ball rebound back across the fairway. From there Faldo played a magnificent iron, finding the green from 200 yards. Montgomerie's birdie putt extended the lead.

With Strange struggling to find his touch Haas had to be right on his game, but it was a mistake by Faldo at the fifth, his approach going into a creek at the front of the green, that improved things for the Americans. After winning that hole they immediately had a chance to square the match when Faldo was short again, this time from the tee at the par-three sixth, but three putts kept them one down.

The Europeans then began to make a move. They won the seventh and went three up at the ninth. Montgomerie failed to make a tricky eight-footer that would have halved the 12th, but he and Faldo went three up again at the next hole. The Americans hung on grimly in the hope that the final four holes would offer a chance to salvage something. They only got as far as the 16th. Strange, who had a miserable morning, sent his second shot into a greenside bunker and failed to capitalise on a good recovery by Haas. It was all over.

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