You Snooze, You Lose Led by a precocious kid and three salty veterans, the Europeans put a sleepwalking U.S. team in a deep hole

Oct. 04, 1999
Oct. 04, 1999

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Oct. 4, 1999

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You Snooze, You Lose Led by a precocious kid and three salty veterans, the Europeans put a sleepwalking U.S. team in a deep hole

The Europeans lead. After a wild first day, the scoreboard told
us how many--six points to two--but not how. To that complicated
question there is a simple answer: The Europeans lead. While the
rudderless U.S. team spent the whole day searching for just one
player, any player, to rally around, the Europeans were willed
to an imposing lead behind the unwavering leadership of their
go-to guys, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and Jesper
Parnevik. These veterans went undefeated on Day 1, and all three
served as wet nurses to their rookie partners, leading them
around the course and to improbable success. The postmortem on
the Yanks last Friday centered on missed putts and shaky
execution, but those were symptoms, not the cause. Something
more intrinsic--call it fire, or perhaps even heart--seemed to
be lacking as the Americans slogged through a dismal first day.

This is an article from the Oct. 4, 1999 issue Original Layout

"For some reason the [Europeans] raise the level of their play
for this tournament," said Davis Love III, who, along with Hal
Sutton and Jeff Maggert, was one of only three U.S. players to
show signs of a pulse. "Our team seems to come in and not play
to its capabilities."

For the Americans there were two sets of culprits: a handful of
veterans who failed to provide leadership and a gang of
youngsters who failed to inspire. Mark O'Meara's game and
attitude were in such a state of disrepair that captain Ben
Crenshaw sat him for the entire day, which speaks volumes given
that no U.S. player except Payne Stewart had more Ryder Cup
experience. Stewart, the team's most outspoken player, saw
action only in the morning foursomes--along with Love, blowing a
2-up lead after four holes--and was strangely subdued throughout
the afternoon. Tom Lehman, the lunch-pail pro on whom Crenshaw
had used a captain's pick, seemed ready to be the chief among so
many Indians when he made a stirring chip-in for birdie on the
first hole of his foursomes match, but he did a slow fade from
there as his iron play deserted him in the middle of the round
and his putter went AWOL at the end. After his loss Lehman, too,
was benched in the afternoon.

Crenshaw was clearly hoping that a trio of his young bucks would
emerge to set the tone for his squad. David Duval, Phil
Mickelson and Tiger Woods were all sent out for two matches on
Friday, allowing them to unleash their awesome length, fearless
aggressiveness and pinpoint iron play. They went a combined 0-6.

Duval and Mickelson were paired to lead off the morning foursome
matches (against Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie), and that seemed
to be a curious move by Crenshaw, considering that at last
December's Presidents Cup the same team had won only a half
point in three matches. Perhaps it was meant to be a vote of
confidence for half of the so-called Brookline Four, whom
Crenshaw had raked over the coals at the PGA Championship for
what he considered their selfish demands to be compensated for
playing in the Ryder Cup. The reasons for leading with
Montgomerie, who has topped the European tour money list for the
past six years and was a hero in '97 at Valderrama, were easier
to discern. "The players look to him for inspiration and
leadership," Euro captain Mark James said late Friday. "He sets
the tone, no question."

Montgomerie's partner, Lawrie, was so spooked that Monty had to
carry him in the early going. "Colin was like a rock," said
Lawrie, a 30-year-old Ryder Cup rookie who eventually found the
form that carried him to the British Open championship in July.
All even at the turn, the match was won in the early part of the
back nine thanks to American blunders, beginning when Mickelson
blew a four-footer for par to lose the 10th hole, one in a
series of crucial misses with the putter. At the brutal 486-yard
par-4 12th, a poor chip by Duval put the Americans 2 down, and
they could never close the gap. "We seemed to be walking in each
other's footsteps, enjoying the experience," Montgomerie said of
his team's play. "The Ryder Cup brings the best out in me, and
I'm glad it does."

Falling behind in the first match was a blow to the seemingly
fragile American psyches. The U.S. desperately needed their
alpha male, Woods, to come through in his match with Lehman
against Garcia and Parnevik. Adding a certain amount of freight
to the match were two factors: Woods had performed abysmally at
his first Ryder Cup in '97, and in the 19-year-old Garcia--the
youngest competitor in the history of the Cup--Woods would be
facing a player who didn't fear him in the least. Though both
captains had submitted their lineups blindly, such was the
pretournament interest in this match that, after the pairings
were announced on Thursday night, Crenshaw joked to a packed
press conference, "Mark James and I met down by the skating pond
on number 3 and worked this out for y'all."

Nobody on either team made a putt on the front nine, and the
match remained all square until the 12th, which proved to be a
swing hole throughout the day. Well short of the green in two,
Garcia played the prettiest bump-and-run you've ever seen to
four feet for an easy par, while Woods, feeling the heat,
blasted a long birdie putt eight feet by the hole. Lehman missed
the comebacker, and the Yanks were one down. That's when
Parnevik stepped forward with the kind of leadership the Yanks
seemed to lack. He made a huge 15-footer to halve the 14th and
followed that with an eight-footer for birdie at 17 that ended
the match.

The U.S. finally got on the board when Sutton and Maggert, a
pair of assassins with their irons, polished off Lee Westwood
and Darren Clarke by making a healthy five birdies along the
way. Maggert, the reigning World Match Play champ and one of
only three Americans with a winning record in Valderrama,
continued to elevate his reputation, but it was Sutton who was
the fist-pumping revelation. With his sterling play and
over-the-top antics, he was the only American to set the flags

In the last match to end Friday morning, the Americans needed a
victory to draw even and looked like favorites with an
experienced team of Love and Stewart, but they were lucky to
escape with a halve when Padraig Harrington, teamed with another
untested rookie, Miguel Angel Jimenez, missed a six-footer at
18. In the end it was Love who was saying, "I felt a little
pressure out there today that I don't normally feel, and I kind
of let it get away from us."

The afternoon four-ball matches were more of the same. Garcia
and Parnevik proved to be unbeatable as they downed Mickelson
and Jim Furyk in a classic match that was decided when Mickelson
missed a five-foot birdie putt on the 18th green. Woods and
Duval continued to look miserable, as they bumbled their way to
a loss against Clarke and Westwood (dropping Woods's career
record in the Ryder Cup to 1-5-1). The play of Lawrie and
Montgomerie fell off a bit late in the day but they gutted out a
half point against Love and a hapless Justin Leonard. The key
match of the afternoon--the one that seemed to blunt the
American's hopes of a comeback--turned out to be Jimenez and
Olazabal against the unlikely U.S. aces, Maggert and Sutton.

Olazabal enjoys a deserved reputation as one of the top players
in Ryder Cup history, but he came to the Country Club following
a lost summer that began when he broke his hand punching a hotel
wall at the U.S. Open in June. His driving, never a strong suit,
was particularly shaky leading up to the Cup, and last Thursday
afternoon he went to James and asked that he be removed from the
next day's foursomes so his errant drives wouldn't place undue
pressure on a partner. It was a move that solidified his
standing among the Europeans. "He's a strong man," said
assistant captain Sam Torrance. "I think that's awesome he would
do that, being honest and putting the team first."

When Olazabal opened his four-ball match by crash-hooking his
drive, the prognosis didn't look encouraging, but he caught fire
in the middle of the round, pouring in substantial birdie putts
on the 6th, 8th and 9th holes. Olazabal then pulled off a
spectacular up-and-down for birdie at the par-5 14th to end a
potential American rally. His steady heroism went all but
unnoticed but it was the kind of performance that Europe has
thrived on in the last few Ryder Cups, while more ballyhooed
Americans have gone down in flames.

Meanwhile, the way that Duval and Woods played the last match of
Day 1, versus Clarke and Westwood, illustrated the leadership gap
that the U.S. suffered. It was obvious Crenshaw had sent out the
two top-ranked players in the world, hoping they would inject
some life into the U.S. team, and that made the uninspired play
of Duval and Woods seem all the more jarring.

It was not a match that was easy on the eyes. Woods played O.K.;
Duval was simply awful. Having hit only two fairways in the
morning, Duval eventually capitulated in the afternoon and
started swinging his three-wood, but it was to no avail. As his
struggles intensified--he made just one birdie on the back
nine--he took on the same deer-in-the-headlights passivity that
he had displayed at the PGA, where he had been shredded by
players and reporters alike for dismissing the Ryder Cup as
merely an exhibition, a particularly galling thing to say
considering that he had never actually played in a Cup.

Duval and Woods came to the 18th hole one down after Clarke
produced a clutch birdie at 17. But the way the two American
stars played the 18th hole was almost a metaphor for the U.S.
team on Day 1. Duval blew his drive into the right rough, and
then, after missing the green with his recovery, he chunked his
chip like a nervous 20-handicapper. Woods drove poorly into the
right rough and then blasted his approach long and left into a
bunker. The Americans never even got their putters out of their
bags, conceding the match after Westwood nearly holed his birdie

It was an inglorious ending to a thoroughly miserable day. When
the U.S. needed someone, anyone, to make a gesture of leadership,
its best players could offer little more than a loser's

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JIM GUND Having a blast Garcia had a good time playing with Parnevik, and the partnership produced, picking up a pair of points for the Euros.COLOR PHOTO: JIM BOURG/REUTERS A little TLC Amy Mickelson consoled hubby Phil after his four-ball miss at 18.COLOR PHOTO: SIMON BRUTY Roaring back Woods's pitch-in at 10 gave him and Duval a lead, but in the end the two top-ranked players were picked off.

DAY 1 Digest


GARCIA-PARNEVIK (Eur.) def. Lehman-Woods 2 and 1
LOVE-STEWART (U.S) Harrington-Jiminez Halved
MAGGERT-SUTTON (U.S.) def. Clarke-Westwood 3 and 2

SESSION: EUROPE 2 1/2 U.S. 1 1/2
TOTAL: EUROPE 2 1/2 U.S. 1 1/2



SESSION: EUROPE 3 1/2 U.S. 1/2

In Other Words

Did the U.S. players come out tight? Who wouldn't after hearing
Crenshaw say this on NBC: "It's extremely important that people
know what we're playing for. We're playing for our souls."

To hear Chris Elsberry of the Connecticut Post tell it, Duval
must not have gotten Crenshaw's message: "Duval's emotions never
seemed to change, and that was the sad thing. He never cracked a
smile, furrowed a brow, pounded a club, pumped a fist or issued
an expletive."

C.W. Nevius of the San Francisco Chronicle said that if the shoe
fits...: "This is starting to look less and less like a
coincidence and more and more like the wrong guys are doing all
the commercials."

Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times felt that the U.S. needed
more Air power: "Like everyone else in America the Bogeyful, a
gallery member was aghast. He shook his head, took a hit from
his cigar and walked toward the next hole. He sensed doom. 'I'm
worried,' Michael Jordan said."

Michael Felger of the Boston Herald said what everybody was
thinking: "It's an ugly word, one that no professional athlete
likes to say, never mind hear. Poor Phil Mickelson. After Friday
he figures to hear it plenty. Choke."

For George Willis of the New York Post, the party was over: "You
might as well take down the corporate tents and park all the
shuttle buses. The overrated, overconfident American team has
shockingly played itself out after only one day."

"I felt a little bit of pressure out there that I don't normally
feel," said Love, "and I kind of let it get away from us."