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Smokin' A single-minded U.S. team came out hot against the Euros, and the rout was on

Oct. 04, 1999
Oct. 04, 1999

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Oct. 4, 1999

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Smokin' A single-minded U.S. team came out hot against the Euros, and the rout was on

Having exhausted all the superlatives to describe the U.S.'s
record comeback to steal the Ryder Cup, perhaps we should simply
allow the facts to speak for themselves. For the day, the
Americans won a stunning 56 holes to 33 by the Euros. Of the
pivotal first six matches, all of which the U.S. won to gain a
death grip on the Cup, none made it to the 17th hole. No team
had ever overcome more than a two-point deficit heading into the
singles, but the U.S. made up more than twice as many points. In
the first 10 matches to be concluded, the Americans won eight
and halved another. "It was a mighty display of firepower," said
Hal Sutton, who got the snowball rolling with a decisive victory
over Darren Clarke.

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

European captain Mark James was left to describe the events of
the day. "They got the momentum early on by holing a load of
stuff," he said. "We didn't respond with our best play, and then
the whole thing got out of hand. Just when it seemed we might
pull it out, they holed a bunch more stuff."

James, with his sardonic wit and deadpan delivery, was the MVP
of the week's press conferences, and he proved to be a gracious
loser, but he deserves the shredding he's going to receive for
some of his decision-making. The man they call Jesse had decided
from the start to hoard as many points as possible during the
team play of the first two days. So he asked his seven best
players to tee it up in all four wearying sessions, fatigue be
damned. History has frowned upon this approach. Since 1985, the
year the Ryder Cup really heated up, Europeans who have played
in all four matches heading into Sunday have gone 10-19-5 in
singles, a telling record considering that we're talking about
their best players. "The kind of golf that was demanded out
there, the level of adrenaline that was required, you can only
go to the well so often," said U.S. assistant coach Bruce
Lietzke. "Mark James wanted to ride his seven horses, and as I
look back on it, that was the wrong strategy."

The Euros are a hearty bunch, and they dismissed talk of
fatigue, but Sutton, who with Tiger Woods was the only American
to play five matches, spoke to the effects. Sutton was bent over
like an old cypress tree on Sunday night when he said, "By the
11th or 12th hole today I was dead on my feet. My arms, my legs,
my body and my swing were all going at different speeds."

James's game plan left three of his untested rookies--Andrew
Coltart, Jarmo Sandelin and Jean Van de Velde--idle until
Sunday, virtually guaranteeing that they would lose their
matches, owing to rust and, more significant, the lack of
confidence shown by their captain. James was left with a
quandary as to where to place the three bench warmers in his
lineup, and he chose to lump them into the third, fourth and
fifth matches. It was a dubious move, given that everyone knew
the Americans' only chance was to win the early matches, get the
crowd revved up and ride the momentum. "We were shocked when we
saw the pairings, and then we became excited," said Lietzke. "We
thought they would throw their knockout punch early, sending at
least four of their really strong players out. We were lucky we
misjudged their pairings." In the three, four and five slots the
U.S sent out three big guns--Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III and
Woods. "Automatic points," said Lietzke.

The tone-setting opening match was, on paper, a mismatch in
favor of the Europeans. Lee Westwood came into the Cup No. 5 in
the World Ranking, while his opponent, Tom Lehman, was winless
on the PGA Tour since 1996. (Westwood had won 14 tournaments in
that span.) But Lehman, the emotional core of his team, was
hell-bent on playing on a winning team after two narrow losses
in the Ryder Cup, and he came out like a man possessed. After
his third consecutive birdie, on the 6th hole, he was 2 up and
never let Westwood back into the match, hitting all 16 fairways
and greens before slamming the door, 3 and 2. "Tom didn't miss a
shot today," said Westwood.

Ditto Sutton, who shrugged off a chip-in birdie by Clarke that
won the 1st hole by taking four of the next five holes, forging
a 3-up lead through six. Sutton held on for a 4 and 2 victory,
and as with Lehman, his outward emotion inspired the crowd and
his teammates. When the U.S. came through with the expected
victories in the following three matches--including rousing
blowouts by Love over Van de Velde and by Mickelson against
Sandelin--the Americans were suddenly in the lead.

A crucial matchup came in the sixth slot, Jesper Parnevik versus
David Duval. No doubt anticipating losses in the three previous
matches, James was using Parnevik as a midday anchor. The
engaging Swede had been heroic in going 3-0-1 over the first two
days, but by Sunday he had run out of magic. Even at his best
Parnevik probably would have lost to Duval, who finally found
his game. On Friday, Duval had looked as if he were still trying
to make up his mind whether he approved of the whole notion of
the Ryder Cup. His icy detachment was sorely out of place amid
the jubilant Europeans, and he was smoked in both of his
matches. "I just didn't feel comfortable," Duval said. "I felt a
little tight."

By Saturday, Duval had begun to come around, in both his play
and his enthusiasm, and against Parnevik he let it all hang out,
including his shirt tail. Duval had even more fist pumps than
birdies (two) over the first eight holes, during which he built
an eye-popping 6-up lead. He showed no mercy in closing out
Parnevik 5 and 4. "That was something we tried to emphasize:
When you get a guy down, pour it on," said Lietzke. "Before
Sunday there hadn't been a lot of big numbers on the board.
Those can be devastating when a guy's teammates have to stare at
them all day."

As the second half of the matches began to heat up, the
scoreboards were bleeding red--the color used to denote American
leads and victories. In a team meeting on Saturday night the
Europeans had made a pact that each would keep tabs only on his
own match, but as the Country Club was enveloped in one roar
after another, they became more and more aware of their tenuous
situation. "I had a wee sneak at the board on the 3rd tee, and
the news was frightful," said Paul Lawrie, the rookie who was
entrusted with the anchor match, against Jeff Maggert. "It made
me grip the club a bit tighter, that's for sure."

With the first six matches in the books, the U.S. now led 12-10
and needed only 2 1/2 points to win the Cup for the first time
since 1993. Three of the late matches were all but over early on
the back nine--Lawrie was 4 up at the turn, Steve Pate was 3 up
on Miguel Angel Jimenez after 14, and Jim Furyk was 4 up on
Sergio Garcia through 12. That brought the de facto score to
14-11. The crucial blow among the three was Furyk's dismantling
of Garcia. The whiz kid from Spain had been sensational in
teaming with Parnevik for four matches, but lost amid their
spectacular recovery shots and seamless ham-and-egging was the
fact that Garcia was not striking the ball well. "Sergio was
depending on Jesper at times," Furyk said after his 4-and-3
victory. "He was missing a lot of fairways. I felt like I needed
to keep the ball in play. I hit every fairway, missed maybe one
green and just kept the pressure on him." Said Garcia, "All I
can tell you is, it was different playing without Jesper."

Needing but one more halve, the U.S. suffered a blow when Mark
O'Meara collapsed on the 18th hole and lost one up to Irish
rookie Padraig Harrington. Now only two matches remained--Jose
Maria Olazabal versus Justin Leonard and Colin Montgomerie
versus Payne Stewart--and the whole course seemed to tilt in the
direction of the 17th hole, where both groups were playing at
all square. We know what happened from there, but it was the
aftermath of what turned out to be Leonard's Cup-clinching
45-foot birdie putt that dominated the postround discussion.

By banging in the oceangoer, a jubilant Leonard touched off a
madcap celebration that saw U.S. players, caddies and wives
cavorting on the green. This was highly unusual, given that
Olazabal, one of the game's best putters, still had a 25-footer
remaining to halve the hole and keep Europe in the hunt.

Well, it wouldn't be a Ryder Cup Sunday without a few bruised
feelings, especially in the wake of such an extraordinary turn
of events. At least some on the European side kept their senses
of humor. As the American players celebrated their victory
outside the clubhouse, a handful of sodden European caddies
gathered on the back side of the locker room building and
serenaded passersby. Their song of choice? Always Look on the
Bright Side of Life, culled from the closing crucifixion scene
in Monty Python's The Life of Brian.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROBERT BECK Strong finish Duval had a change of heart, and a leading role in the final charge by the U.S. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROBERT BECK Flawed strategy James allowed the U.S. to gain momentum by putting his three untested rookies near the top of the lineup.COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROBERT BECK Bushwhacked Like most of the Europeans who had played every match, Parnevik ran out of steam and played poorly in the singles.

DAY 3 Digest

Singles

LEHMAN (U.S.) def. WESTWOOD 3 and 2
SUTTON (U.S.) def. CLARKE 4 and 2
MICKELSON (U.S.) def. SANDELIN 4 and 3
LOVE (U.S.) def. VAN DE VELDE 6 and 5
WOODS (U.S.) def. COLTART 3 and 2
DUVAL (U.S.) def. PARNEVIK 5 and 4
HARRINGTON (Eur.) def. O'MEARA One up
PATE (U.S.) def. JIMENEZ 2 and 1
LEONARD (U.S.) and OLAZABAL Halved
MONTGOMERIE (Eur.) def. STEWART One up
FURYK (U.S.) def. GARCIA 4 and 3
LAWRIE (Eur.) def. MAGGERT 4 and 3

SESSION: U.S. 8 1/2 EUROPE 3 1/2
FINAL: U.S. 14 1/2 EUROPE 13 1/2

Individual Records

U.S. W L T Europe W L T

HAL SUTTON 3 1 1 PAUL LAWRIE 3 1 1
DAVIS LOVE III 1 0 3 COLIN MONTGOMERIE 3 1 1
TOM LEHMAN 2 1 0 SERGIO GARCIA 3 1 1
STEVE PATE 2 1 0 JESPER PARNEVIK 3 1 1
PHIL MICKELSON 2 2 0 JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL 1 0 2
TIGER WOODS 2 3 0 PADRAIG HARRINGTON 1 1 1
DAVID DUVAL 1 2 1 DARREN CLARKE 2 3 0
JUSTIN LEONARD 0 1 3 LEE WESTWOOD 2 3 0
JEFF MAGGERT 2 2 0 MIGUEL ANGEL JIMENEZ 1 2 2
JIM FURYK 1 2 0 ANDREW COLTART 0 1 0
PAYNE STEWART 0 2 1 JARMO SANDELIN 0 1 0
MARK O'MEARA 0 2 0 JEAN VAN DE VELDE 0 1 0

In Other Words

Make mine a double. NBC commentator and former European captain
Bernard Gallacher as the U.S. closed in on victory: "I was just
talking to Mark James's wife, and she asked if we had any gin up
here."

Paul Miguel of the French newspaper Le Monde nailed it: "The
American team proved that the fundamentals of golf are about
strong individuals."

You gotta believe, said Steve Campbell of the Albany
Times-Union: "If Crenshaw says he has a feeling that the moon is
made out of cheese, don't question it. Just break out the
crackers. If Crenshaw says the sun is going to start rising in
the west, don't argue. Just alert the roosters. If Crenshaw says
the vocal stylings of Ricky Martin will endure for decades to
come, don't argue. Just buy ear plugs."

"I had a wee sneak at the board on the 3rd tee," said Lawrie,
"and the news was frightful. It made me grip the club a bit
tighter."