DAY 1 U.S. AGAINST THEM
This is an article from the Oct. 2, 1995 issue
If you could get a straight answer from a Ryder Cup captain on
Day 1, you would ask which player held center stage in his
mind's proscenium at the moment his eyes popped open in the
darkness before dawn.
Lanny Wadkins awoke at 5:45 last Friday morning, 15 minutes
before his alarm was set to go off. But if the U.S. captain woke
up worrying about Peter Jacobsen's media wounds or Jeff
Maggert's rookie jitters, he couldn't betray the fact. One loose
comment can wreck a player's reputation.
And make no mistake, that's what the Ryder Cup has become--a
reputation maker. It's a three-day ordeal in which the games and
guts of the contestants are coldly scrutinized and the chokers
singled out. The captain's job, therefore, is not just to win
but to protect fragile egos. Wadkins, for instance, wanted his
five Ryder Cup rookies--Maggert, Tom Lehman, Phil Mickelson, Brad
Faxon and Loren Roberts--to play at least one match on Friday,
and not just play but get a confidence boost, as well.
Tall order, but Wadkins got his wish. Lehman hit a brilliant
pressure shot on the 18th hole to win the morning's most
critical foursome match; Mickelson had four birdies in an
afternoon four-ball victory; Roberts led a 6-and-5 massacre of
Europe's two hottest golfers, Sam Torrance and Costantino Rocca;
and Maggert contributed to one win in the morning, when rain
drenched Oak Hill Country Club, and another in the afternoon,
when a chill wind chased away the clouds.
Instead, Wadkins had to worry about his veterans. Fred Couples
and Jay Haas were wretched in the morning, and it was hard to
tell which bothered Wadkins more: Couples's failure to step
forward or Haas's inability to withstand the downward pull of
And then there was Jacobsen. The day he arrived in Rochester,
the 41-year-old PGA Tour veteran launched a spirited rebuttal of
some tepid press criticism. "The media, perhaps the public, may
consider Peter to be too lighthearted to be taken seriously by
the bloodthirsty," declared Chuck Hogan, Jacobsen's mental
coach. Before the three days of practice rounds were over, Davis
Love III and Curtis Strange had taken their own shots at the
Resentment can be an effective unifying force, which may explain
why Wadkins didn't immediately squelch the press-bashing. But he
had to wonder whether Jacobsen, whose admitted weakness is a
tendency to lose concentration, had his head in the game.
The answer came Friday afternoon, when Jacobsen committed a
mental blunder of embarrassing proportions. Having chipped his
third shot five feet past the cup on the par-4 7th hole,
Jacobsen nonchalantly picked up his ball, gave partner Brad
Faxon a high five, and said, "Great 4." Faxon, turning pale,
replied, "That was a 5." Jacobsen had not noticed that his
partner's tee shot had gone in the water, forcing him to take a
Faxon recovered quickly, but Jacobsen never regained his
composure. Wadkins tried to loosen him up with a joke on the 8th
tee ("Will you need a mathematician the rest of the way?"), but
Jacobsen blocked his tee shot right, bladed a greenside bunker
shot into the gallery and took an X. "I feel like an idiot. I
want to cry," said Jacobsen after he and Faxon lost 4 and 3.
It would be a mistake, though, to assume that the shepherd
thinks only of his smallest sheep. As Wadkins cruised the 9th
fairway in a golf cart on Thursday, he dwelt on Match 1, which
had his best competitor, U.S. Open champ Corey Pavin, joining
Lehman against the imposing British duo of Nick Faldo and Colin
Montgomerie. "That's cool, very cool," said Wadkins. "I wanted
something to light a fire under Corey. He's been going through
the motions here."
On Friday, Pavin went through the emotions instead and won two
matches, living up to his reputation as a fearsome match player.
His sidekick Lehman was impressive from start to finish in the
opening match, blasting a 280-yard three wood off the 1st tee
and muscling a 200-yard five-iron from the sopping rough to the
elevated 18th green. That gave the Americans their first point
and permitted a 2-2 split of the morning matches. More
important, the sober-faced Lehman stood up to Faldo when the
English star mumbled that Lehman's par putt on the 2nd green was
good. "What?" Lehman asked. Faldo muttered again and made a
sarcastic gesture indicating he should pick the ball up. "Well,
if you'd speak clearly," Lehman said sharply.
"I just wasn't going to take any crap," Lehman said later.
"Nick's gesture was like he was saying, 'You stupid little
idiot.' I was hot." So hot, in fact, that Pavin had to take
Lehman aside and remind him that Faldo was only venting because
he had chipped badly. Later, Lehman would admit, "I've always
said that if we played match play on our Tour, you'd see a bunch
of golfers acting like tennis players."
The most intriguing match, though, was Match 5, the first of the
afternoon session, and not just because of Jacobsen's memorable
faux par. For 15 holes the legendary Spanish champion Seve
Ballesteros steered tee shots into Oak Hill's every woody nook
and glade. Meanwhile his partner, 30-year-old David Gilford,
played almost flawless golf. What made it remarkable was that
virtually everybody gave the credit to Ballesteros. Said
Jacobsen, "I think you could put Seve with the paper boy, and
Seve could probably bring him through."
The U.S. team won the afternoon's other three matches and, the
Spanish Svengali notwithstanding, ended the day with a 5-3 lead
to sleep on and a slew of new players to count on. Wadkins's
pairings for Saturday morning had Couples, Ben Crenshaw, Faxon
and Mickelson sitting out the foursomes and, in a significant
show of support, Jacobsen playing. Mickelson, said the captain,
"had a real disappointed look on his face" when he got the news,
but it was a good bet that the team's youngest member would play
in the afternoon four balls. "Phil gives me a lot of options."
Captains love options, and with the comfort of a two-point lead,
Wadkins had every imaginable combination at his disposal: big
hitters and straight shooters, pepper pots and poker faces,
veterans and youths. The only thing that could disturb the day's
hard-earned equilibrium was Wadkins's alarm clock, which he set
for 6 a.m. You had to wonder which player was on his mind as he
DAY 2 DESPERATE TIMES
It's no fun explaining yourself. It's no use, either, as Bernard
Gallacher learned in his two previous terms as Europe's Ryder
Cup captain. When you're drowning in a sea of second guesses,
even a proffered oar can look like a murderous instrument.
Which may explain why, at Oak Hill, Gallacher was by turns
testy, sullen and sarcastic; why he was mute and then suddenly
verbose. Last Friday evening, when asked by a British reporter
about a Saturday pairing, he exploded, saying, "Dammit! I take
enough responsibilities around here without taking that from
you." At other times Gallacher went into confessional mode. He
had erred Friday afternoon, he said, in not substituting a
rested Ian Woosnam for the struggling Per-Ulrik Johansson. He
had also miscalculated in sending out older players like Sam
Torrance and Costantino Rocca to play a second round on
spongelike, strength-sapping fairways.
To his credit Gallacher didn't publicly unpack the heavy baggage
he brought to Rochester: a fading Eurostar fighting the yips
(Woosnam), a tabloid celebrity ducking published rumors that his
marriage was on the rocks (Nick Faldo), a quintet of players
incapable of keeping their tee balls out of Oak Hill's confining
trees and rough (Johansson, Seve Ballesteros, Philip Walton,
Howard Clark and Mark James), not to mention his own lukewarm
mandate (further weakened by widely publicized criticism from
former Ryder Cup captain Tony Jacklin). Given that he was on the
verge of being remembered as a three-time loser, Gallacher
seemed almost gracious.
That's what he told his team when they met Friday night:
"Gracious!" Put a bit more strongly, of course, and with the
side of his shoe applied soccer-style to their collective butt.
"It was what you Yanks call a tongue-lashing," said an amused
British writer. "Something to wake the lads up."
And on Saturday they came out smoking. In the morning foursomes,
all four of Gallacher's picks hit the 1st fairway with good
drives, while only Tom Lehman succeeded for the U.S. The
Europeans then began to pour in putts, adding an olive when
Rocca made a hole in one on the par-3 6th. "It was a very great
moment for me and for my partner because with the hole in one,
it's very difficult to lose the hole," he said with unassailable
logic. After the easy 6-and-5 victory over Davis Love III and
Jeff Maggert, Rocca's partner, Torrance, said, "You beat him.
You beat him." Torrance meant Love, who took Rocca on the last
hole of the crucial singles match in 1993. An endearing, almost
cartoonish figure, Rocca seemed to be seizing the respect that
has been denied him on this side of the Atlantic. "He's a great
technician," said Gallacher. "And on a big, tough course like
Oak Hill, the best strikers of the ball will come through. Rocca
is just churning it out."
With the Europeans making easy work of the Americans in three of
the morning matches, the pressure shifted to Loren Roberts and a
suspect Peter Jacobsen, who were playing Woosnam and first-time
Ryder Cupper Walton. Jacobsen, teased to good effect at Friday
night's team dinner (Brad Faxon: "Now, Peter, I have one fork
and one glass here...."), had something to prove. And he proved
it, hitting good iron shots for birdies on 12 and 13 and
draining the winning three-foot par putt set up by Roberts's
gutsy wedge from the 18th fairway. "Your emotions really swing,"
With the matches tied again at 6, Gallacher decided to shake up
his team by splitting his established pairs of Faldo and Colin
Montgomerie and Rocca and Torrance. One of the new pairings,
Woosnam-Rocca, produced a win. Another, Torrance-Montgomerie,
served up a sweet victory to Faxon and Fred Couples--sweet
because it came against Montgomerie, who had been quoted as
saying, "The main strength of our team is theirs." With the
loss, Montgomerie, touted as Europe's best player coming in, was
More ominously for Gallacher, Jay Haas and Phil Mickelson easily
handled the hand-in-the-back act of Ballesteros and David
Gilford. The match was essentially two-on-one, with Ballesteros
playing atrociously. Completely lost with his mechanics, he hit
tee shots that would have gone a full fairway over if not for
Oak Hill's huge trees. On the 9th hole he scattered spectators
with a hook. As he approached the ball, a loud New York voice
yelled, "Hey, Seve, jeez, you almost killed me with that ball!"
A stone-faced Ballesteros quietly responded, "That would have
been a pity."
The real pity was Seve. Considering his record in eight Ryder
Cups, Ballesteros is arguably the greatest match-play partner in
history. But on Saturday he was reduced to cheerleader and ego
massager for Gilford, who played well but finally bent under the
load. "Seve's game is simply awful," said swing coach David
Leadbetter. "I'm amazed he's even playing." Paul Azinger, out of
the U.S. lineup for the first time since 1989, said that
Ballesteros was suffering from paralysis by analysis. "He should
pretend he's hitting every shot from out of the trees because
that's when he forgets technique. He should just try to curve
every shot instead of trying to hit it straight and seeing it
spray off in one direction or another."
With that match lost, Europe needed Faldo and Bernhard Langer to
beat Corey Pavin and Roberts to stay tied 8-8. The significance
was huge. The U.S. had only lost the singles portion of the
Ryder Cup twice in 40 years, in 1957 and 1985. Lacking the depth
Lanny Wadkins had at his disposal, Gallacher felt he needed a
lead going into Sunday; a 9-7 deficit seemed insurmountable.
Enter Faldo. As the shadows lengthened, the English star got
into one of those ball-striking zones that were his trademark
when he won two Masters and two British Opens between 1989 and
1992. Every drive in the fairway, every iron at the pin. "Nick
has really clicked in, he's totally focused," said Leadbetter,
following his most famous pupil on foot. "This is what he lives
And dies over. With the match square and his ball just 17 feet
from the cup on the 18th green, Faldo went down in Ryder Cup
history as a witness. Pavin won the match with a chip-in birdie
from the collar to set Jacobsen, Faxon and Haas dancing in front
of the video screen set up on the practice range, while on the
18th fairway Ben Crenshaw waved a seat cushion and gushed,
"Unbelievable! He's the toughest player in the world."
More impressive than the chip, Crenshaw said later, was Pavin's
previous shot, a four-iron approach from the right rough. "From
that spot? A shank lie? Unbelievable." Echoed Maggert, "I got a
chill after that shot." And Couples, adding his own redundant
"unbelievable," said, "The ball's below his feet--just to get it
to the green--and he took it right over the flag. Wow!"
The only player stifling his wow reflex was Pavin himself. When
his chip went in, he looked almost apologetically toward Langer,
a close friend. The crowd at the 18th carried on as if it were
Mardi Gras, but Faldo still had to putt. It wasn't until his
birdie effort veered left that Pavin allowed himself a victory
grin. "Corey's our go-to guy," said Faxon. "You know how Michael
Jordan wants the ball? Corey has that. He wants it, and when he
makes a birdie it jacks everybody up."
Faldo, disconsolate, walked to the putting green for a session
At that point Gallacher could only submit his choices for
Sunday. Two rematches from The Belfry promised some drama:
Love-Rocca and Couples-Woosnam. The Match 12 selection of
Johansson also caught one's eye, since the pressure on the young
Swede might be unbearable if the outcome were still in doubt.
But the best evidence that Gallacher was desperate was his
choice for the opening singles match: Ballesteros. The Spaniard,
with his game in tatters, would have to call on supernatural
powers to beat Lehman. But if he did, Gallacher seemed to be
saying, it could inspire miracles down the line.
If it didn't, Gallacher would have some explaining to do.
DAY 3 WINNERS AND LOSERS
The birds, when you think about it, don't care who wins the
Ryder Cup. The squirrels keep right on gathering nuts. Even the
grass around the clubhouse at Oak Hill, reduced to mud by
thousands of spectators, will sprout again in the spring.
Curtis Strange, on the other hand, will lie awake at night,
replaying the last three holes of his singles match with Nick
Faldo. Ireland's Philip Walton may redecorate his home around
some massive photograph of himself putting for victory on the
18th hole. Bernard Gallacher will possibly give his scowl a rest.
The scoreboard records points attained, but for individual
players, the results are more a question of stature gained or
lost. So although Sunday's scoreboard showed a 14 1/2 to 13 1/2
European victory, there were winners and losers on both sides.
Strange is the most obvious loser. Oak Hill, the site of his
1989 U.S. Open victory, became Elm Street, with Curtis supplying
the nightmare. One of Lanny Wadkins's two at-large picks, he was
on the spot as the player who didn't belong, the guy who bumped
a more deserving Lee Janzen. Given a chance to justify his
selection, Strange scored no points and lost a pivotal singles
match when he was one up on Faldo through 15 holes, needing only
a halve to deliver a U.S. team victory and perhaps revive his
own career. He bogeyed the last three holes instead. Worse, he
lost the 18th even though Faldo had to chip out onto the
fairway. "This is going to hurt for a long time," Strange said.
"I didn't come through when I should have."
If Strange had to swallow his pride, the man who put him on the
team had to eat humble pie. Wadkins thought he had micromanaged
this Ryder Cup down to the last Stimp. He had the players he
wanted on the course he wanted before the crowds he wanted, with
a two-point lead going into Sunday's singles. Asked Wednesday
night to make a prediction, Wadkins said, "I expect it to be
over by nine o'clock Sunday morning." Now he goes in the record
books as a losing captain--no disgrace at all, but galling to a
cocky Dallas hustler.
And let's make room on the diminished-stature list for Ben
Crenshaw and Jay Haas. Crenshaw was still the reigning Masters
champion when he left Rochester, but his golf was less than
masterly. Like Strange, he didn't win a point, primarily because
his long game couldn't handle Oak Hill. As for Haas, the
low-profile pro had the opportunity to seize some big-time
attention. Wadkins expected him to play five matches, but Haas
lost badly with Fred Couples on Friday, then again with Strange
on Saturday. Sunday was the capper. In the clutch Jay Haas
should beat Philip Walton. That he didn't suggests that Haas is
too nice a guy for Ryder Cup roughhousing.
Dare we include Jeff Maggert with the losers? Second banana to
his son in those cute commercials that ran all weekend, the
Ryder Cup rookie played well on Friday and won two points. But
he got upset Sunday by the laconic Mark James. By losing to a
guy he should have buried, Maggert retains his rep as a poor
Finally, the most-diminished player of the lot: Seve
Ballesteros. The Wizard had it going for a few hours on Friday,
frightening Dorothy and Toto--uh, Brad Faxon and Peter
Jacobsen--with his hoary shtick. The next day, though, Phil
Mickelson and Haas looked behind the curtain and saw that the
Wizard was a fake. On Sunday, Ballesteros was so outclassed by
Tom Lehman that his gamesmanship on the 12th green (more on that
later) looked desperate. Ballesteros will make a great captain
for Europe, probably at the 1997 Ryder Cup, in Spain, but right
now his game isn't good enough to win a college tournament.
On to the winners--i.e., the participants on both sides who left
Rochester feeling good about themselves.
Gallacher heads the list. On Sunday, Europe's captain couldn't
resist a dig at the British press, saying, "They wrote me off as
a three-time loser." For once, it wasn't paranoia--"they" really
were out to get him. "They've given Gallacher a hammering," said
James after the victory. "He hasn't deserved what he's been
getting. You have wallies like Tony Jacklin sticking their nose
in, and we didn't need it." In addition to his leadership
Gallacher contributed an aphorism for the ages: "Amateurs think
of the past, pros think of the future."
Then you have the joke that turned on its tellers: Costantino
Rocca. Oak Hill overwhelmed many of the Ryder Cuppers, but not
the goat of Ryder Cup '93. Rocca played five matches, scored
three points and made one of Europe's two holes in one. No more
being lumped with the losers. At Rochester, Rocca emerged as one
of the world's premier ball strikers.
On the American side three rookies showed they could win both
points and respect. Lehman starred as a genuine--and genuinely
likable--tough guy. He not only scored two points in three
matches but also went eyeball-to-eyeball with two of golf's
great intimidators. On Friday he refused to let Faldo get away
with rudeness and sarcasm when the Englishman made an ambiguous
concession of a putt. On Sunday he weathered a desperate gambit
by Ballesteros in which the Spaniard made him re-mark his ball
after Lehman had tapped in a six-incher on the 12th green. Why?
So Ballesteros could use the coin as a target.
Loren Roberts was solid, too, winning three matches and hitting
a brilliant wedge shot on 18 that set up his team's only victory
in Saturday's foursomes. Said Jacobsen, his partner in that
match, "Loren's control is so good, not only with his clubs but
with his emotions. He was very cool out there."
As for Mickelson, the joke on the U.S. team was that he wanted
to play six of the five matches. Too bad he didn't. He was the
only player on either team to go unbeaten and untied, winning
three matches. As the Cup slipped away on Sunday, it was
Mickelson who bucked the trend. Three down on the front side in
his match with his former Arizona State roommate, Per-Ulrik
Johansson, Mickelson roared back with birdies on 10, 11 and 12.
He was about to save the Cup for the U.S. with a match-winning
putt on 17 when a thin roar from 18 announced that it was too
The most encouraging "winner" on the U.S. side had to be
Couples. You can't say he quieted the whispers that he is
unreliable, but he did something on Sunday that he has rarely
done--he made pressure-packed putts. At the end of a day in which
he had been the victim of his usual yippy short putting, Couples
drained testers on the 17th and 18th holes to salvage a critical
halve with Ian Woosnam.
As for Corey Pavin, the Ryder Cup's only four-point winner,
Faldo said it best: "Expletive deleted, expletive deleted,
expletive deleted!" At least that's how Faldo remembered his
immediate reaction to Pavin's winning chip-in on the 18th hole
of Saturday's four-ball masterpiece. For conventional press
outlets, Faldo added, "Corey is simply magic with the putter. I
watched him on the practice green before he went out. He threw
down three balls and made two of them every time. Then he holed
a 50-footer on the first hole."
Pavin has only one major championship to show for a 12-year
career, but Oak Hill confirmed his reputation as the best match
player currently working the globe.
The biggest winner, though, was the Ryder Cup itself. There was
concern this year that the underdog Europeans, graying
noticeably and with little talent in the pipeline, would lose
decisively. That could have destroyed the competitive
equilibrium that has transformed this series from a biennial
snooze into golf's most compelling spectacle. Europe's victory
guaranteed that the Ryder Cup will inflame passions at least
into the next century.
Even in his despair Strange could see the necessary connection
between this greater good and his own loss. "Big matches," he
said. "That's why some people are goats and some people are
Losing, he didn't have to add, is strictly for the birds.
DAY 1 TOTE BOARD
Pavin shepherds pair of rookies to victory. Love rolls with
Maggert, then steadies Freddy.
Jacobsen rips press for questioning ability to concentrate, then
loses track of score.
Wadkins sits Haas in afternoon in favor of Roberts, who gets out
of the box fast with a 32 on the front side.
Tom Lehman-Corey Pavin (U.S.) def. Nick Faldo-Colin Montgomerie,
one up. Costantino Rocca-Sam Torrance (Eur.) def. Fred
Couples-Jay Haas, 3 and 2. Davis Love III-Jeff Maggert (U.S.)
def. Howard Clark-Mark James, 4 and 3. Per-Ulrik
Johansson-Bernhard Langer (Eur.) def. Ben Crenshaw-Curtis
Strange, one up. Session: U.S. 2, Europe 2.
Total: U.S. 2, Europe 2.
Seve Ballesteros-David Gilford (Eur.) def. Brad Faxon-Peter
Jacobsen, 4 and 3. Maggert-Loren Roberts (U.S.) def.
Rocca-Torrance, 6 and 5. Couples-Love (U.S.) def.
Faldo-Montgomerie, 3 and 2. Phil Mickelson-Pavin (U.S.) def.
Johansson-Langer, 6 and 4.
Session: U.S. 3, Europe 1. Total: U.S. 5, Europe 3.
DAY 2 TOTE BOARD
Act of Faith
Faxon offers spot in foursomes to Jacobsen, who makes up for
Friday faux pas.
U.S. rookies remarkable 9-3 through Saturday.
Like a Rocca
Italian Stallion picks up two wins plus an ace.
Shot of the Day
Looks like lights out when Pavin chips in on 18 to beat
While Mickelson sits, Strange stumbles.
Faldo-Montgomerie (Eur.) def. Haas-Strange, 4 and 2.
Rocca-Torrance (Eur.) def. Love-Maggert, 6 and 5.
Jacobsen-Roberts (U.S.) def. Walton-Woosnam, one up.
Gilford-Langer (Eur.) def. Lehman-Pavin, 4 and 3.
Session: Europe 3, U.S. 1. Total: U.S. 6, Europe 6.
Couples-Faxon (U.S.) def. Montgomerie-Torrance, 4 and 2.
Rocca-Woosnam (Eur.) def. Crenshaw-Love, 3 and 2.
Haas-Mickelson (U.S.) def. Ballesteros-Gilford, 3 and 2.
Pavin-Roberts (U.S.) def. Faldo-Langer, one up.
Session: U.S. 3, Europe 1. Total: U.S. 9, Europe 7.
DAY 3 TOTE BOARD
Clark and James, benched since dismal showing in opening
session, put up two unexpected wins.
U.S. team, not Euros, shows its age. Crenshaw (43), Haas (41),
Jacobsen (41), Roberts (40) and Strange (40) scored a combined
Lehman (U.S.) def. Ballesteros, 4 and 3.
Clark (Eur.) def. Jacobsen, one up.
James (Eur.) def. Maggert, 4 and 3.
Couples (U.S.) and Woosnam halved.
Love (U.S.) def. Rocca, 3 and 2.
Gilford (Eur.) def. Faxon, one up.
Montgomerie (Eur.) def. Crenshaw, 3 and 1.
Faldo (Eur.) def. Strange, one up.
Torrance (Eur.) def. Roberts, 2 and 1.
Pavin (U.S.) def. Langer, 3 and 2.
Walton (Eur.) def. Haas, one up.
Mickelson (U.S.) def. Johansson, 2 and 1.
Session: Europe 7 1/2, U.S. 4 1/2.
Final: Europe 14 1/2, U.S. 13 1/2.
U.S. W L T
Pavin 4 1 0
Mickelson 3 0 0
Roberts 3 1 0
Love 3 2 0
Couples 2 1 1
Lehman 2 1 0
Maggert 2 2 0
Faxon 1 2 0
Jacobsen 1 2 0
Haas 1 3 0
Crenshaw 0 3 0
Strange 0 3 0
Europe W L T
Gilford 3 1 0
Rocca 3 2 0
Torrance 3 2 0
Faldo 2 3 0
Langer 2 3 0
Montgomerie 2 3 0
Woosnam 1 1 1
Clark 1 1 0
James 1 1 0
Walton 1 1 0
Ballesteros 1 2 0
Johansson 1 2 0