Last Saturday's weather report from Valderrama was the same as
the Ryder Cup report: First it rained, then it poured. Never
mind the usual Sunday drama, the outcome of the 32nd Ryder Cup
was determined when the U.S. went 0-5-2 on Saturday, a day that
will live in infamy for the Americans because it marked the
first time they had failed to win a match during an entire day
of competition. The last time either side had gone winless for a
day was back in 1967, when Great Britain lost seven matches and
halved one on Saturday, and such a drubbing has occurred only
three times in the history of the Cup.
"It's unbelievable," said Tom Lehman, who along with partner
Phil Mickelson halved two matches on Saturday to account for all
of the U.S. scoring. "A tie is better than a loss, but we needed
When Saturday's play began, the teams were tied 3-3, with two of
Friday's foursomes matches yet to be completed. By the time
darkness again halted play, with three of Saturday's foursomes
matches still on the course, the U.S. was behind 9-4.
Insurmountable? Maybe not against the old Houston Oilers, but
against the Europeans, five points was too much ground to make
up. "I knew the other team was good, but I thought our team was
as good if not better," Lehman said. "The golf gods were not on
our side today."
Tiger Woods, Justin Leonard and Davis Love III may have won
three of this year's majors, but they went 0-4 on Saturday (and
1-9-3 for the week). Fred Couples holed a shot from the 8th
fairway for eagle in his four-ball match--and still lost. The
U.S., in fact, led three of the four four-ball matches on the
front side and were tied in all but one of them when the second
group reached the 12th tee, yet lost three and halved one
because, amazingly, the U.S. won just one hole after the 14th
all day. Not counting halves, the Europeans had a 9-1 edge on
holes 14 through 17. "They keep beating us on the back nine,"
said Scott Hoch, "and I don't know why."
It wasn't that the Americans turned Valderrama into Folderrama
for a day. They played well, but the Europeans were exceptional,
especially on the greens. Even Ian Woosnam, supposedly battling
an errant driver and putter, and Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, a Ryder
Cup rookie, came off Seve Ballesteros's bench and played like
gangbusters, knocking off Leonard and Brad Faxon in four-balls 2
"What's the magic in the pairings? I don't understand it," Faxon
said. "It's unbelievable to me. Woosie and Bjorn sit out
[Friday's matches], then shoot eight under or something--and
then they're not playing again. Is that Seve's genius or is it
just luck? Woosie putted great for a guy who supposedly has the
Ignacio Garrido ignored the pressure of playing his first Ryder
Cup, and in his home country, and turned into a star performer,
especially when he made an unlikely up and down from the back
bunker at the 17th, which led to the four-ball halve against
Lehman and Mickelson. "The second-best shot I've ever seen,"
Lehman said. The best? The high two-iron out of the rough that
Mickelson had hit to within six feet of the hole moments
earlier. "Just phenomenal," Lehman said. Typifying the
Americans' play, Mickelson missed his putt.
While Nick Faldo set the record for most career Ryder Cup points
(he finished with 25), his baby-faced rookie partner, Lee
Westwood, played even better, throwing in five birdies in a
2-and-1 four-ball win over Woods and Mark O'Meara.
The difference was that Europe's rookies--Bjorn, Darren Clarke,
Garrido, Jesper Parnevik and Westwood--came up big, while some
of America's big guns, especially Love and Woods, didn't. It was
Westwood, in fact, who kicked the pebble that started the
European avalanche. The Euros' first stroke on Saturday was a
slick six-foot putt on the 16th green, the scary kind that
induces nightmares even when you don't have to sleep on it all
night, as Westwood had to after Jeff Maggert of the U.S. decided
on Friday evening that it was too dark to finish their foursomes
match, which the Europeans led 2 up. When Westwood poured in the
putt as if it were a tap-in, that match was over. In the other
holdover Lehman and Mickelson got their first halve of the day,
against Parnevik and Garrido, but by the time they scored again
for the U.S., the rout was on.
Call it a double Mongolian reversal. Saturday's four-ball
matches appeared to favor the U.S., starting with Couples and
Love versus Colin Montgomerie and Clarke, of Northern Ireland,
who had a meltdown at the British Open. The match turned at the
par-5 17th when Couples and Love, both over the green in two,
were unable to get up and down for birdie. They dropped the hole
to go one down and lost the match with pars at the 18th.
Leonard, seven under on his own ball, and Faxon looked good
against Woosnam and Bjorn, apparent sacrificial lambs, but the
Europeans' combined seven birdies sank the Americans. "That's
match play," Leonard said later. "You can play really well and
lose or play mediocre and win. Unfortunately, I was in category
Woods and O'Meara seemed a good choice over Westwood and Faldo,
who was struggling with his putter, but Westwood birdied the
15th and Faldo the 16th to go 2 up, then on 17 Faldo matched
O'Meara's clutch birdie after Woods's 35-foot eagle putt wound
up in the pond fronting the green.
Lehman-Mickelson were favored against an overworked Jose Maria
Olazabal and the untested Garrido. It was a terrific match,
Mickelson's missed eagle keeping it even through 17. At the 18th
the Europeans drove into the trees and took a long time to play
out. Most of the delay was while Olazabal was given a drop from
freshly spread wood chips. "I fell asleep waiting for them,"
Lehman said. "I grabbed a pillow, set my alarm for 30 minutes,
and when I woke up, they were still there." Matching pars at the
finish resulted in the hard-fought halve.
"I thought we had four really good teams," Mickelson said. "I
thought we could get a lot of points. To the Europeans' credit
they beat all of us--well, Tom and I were the exception. Three
of the four major-championship winners this year were out there
playing for us, and the Europeans found a way to beat them. They
played some great golf."
The potential was there for a U.S. sweep, but the Euros had the
brooms out at the end. "This is probably the best day for
European golf ever, and we've had a lot of great days," said
Montgomerie, who after winning with Clarke teamed with Bernhard
Langer to beat Jim Furyk and Lee Janzen one up in the only
foursomes match that was completed. "This is one I'll always
U.S. captain Tom Kite will remember Saturday too. "I'm
disappointed, but surprised probably better describes the way I
feel," he said. "I came out with outstanding pairings and
thought we'd have a great morning. All week the Europeans have
been able to right the ship on the back nine, and they severely
In Saturday's four-ball play the Europeans made 24 birdies and
eagles to the Americans' 21. "I feel my guys played better from
tee to green," Kite said, "but the European team pitched and
putted significantly better because they knew the course."
The following day that advantage disappeared. "We won eight of
12 points on Sunday," Faxon said. "If we'd done that the first
or second day, it would've been a blowout. A lot of our guys are
going to look back and think about how we got so far behind."
They won't have to look far. It was Saturday.
RYDER CUP SCORECARD
Parnevik's two closing birdies stun Furyk and Lehman. Faxon's
clutch putt for win at 18 makes up for miss at Oak Hill.
Bjorn, Clarke and Woosnam finally play, and come up big. Faldo
sets Cup record for career points.
The Americans were good, but Johansson's win over Love and
Rocca's over Woods put a dagger in U.S. hopes.
Woods and O'Meara run out of gas in p.m., while Mickelson--great
in practice--disappoints with a loss and a halve.
Faxon doesn't make a birdie, again. Woods putts into lake on 17,
but Mickelson's miss there in four-balls was bigger.
If Leonard doesn't blow a 4-up lead, the Ryder Cup goes down to
the wire. Woosnam runs singles record to 0-6-2.
Why did you allow it, Tom? Letting Seve play the four-ball
matches first gets Euros off to a running start.
Seve's subs didn't lose a match. When old reliables Couples and
Love go 0-2, you know you're in trouble.
None of those who played in every session (Faldo, Montgomerie,
Olazabal, Westwood, Woods) won in singles.
U.S. W L T Europe W L T
* Scott Hoch 2 0 1 Colin Montgomerie 3 1 1
[*]Fred Couples 2 2 0 Bernhard Langer 3 1 0
Mark O'Meara 2 2 0 Costantino Rocca 3 1 0
[*]Lee Janzen 2 1 0 J.M. Olazabal 2 2 1
Jeff Maggert 2 1 0 [*]Nick Faldo 2 3 0
Tom Lehman 1 1 2 * Lee Westwood 2 3 0
Phil Mickelson 1 1 2 Per-Ulrik Johansson 2 0 0
* Tiger Woods 1 3 1 *[*]Jesper Parnevik 1 1 2
Brad Faxon 1 2 0 * Thomas Bjorn 1 0 1
* Jim Furyk 1 2 0 * Ignacio Garrido 0 1 3
* Justin Leonard 0 2 2 * Darren Clarke 1 1 0
Davis Love III 0 4 0 Ian Woosnam 1 1 0
[*] CAPTAIN'S PICK * RYDER CUP ROOKIE