KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- The puzzling inability of the United States team to play well in the fourball competition at the Ryder Cup continued yesterday, keeping alive Europe's hopes of taking the coveted cup home again.
Europe won three and tied one in the four matches in the fourball, or better-ball, phase yesterday afternoon at the wind-swept Ocean Course. That squared the matches after two days, 8-8, leaving the Ryder Cup up for grabs with 12 singles matches remaining today.
The final blow for the Americans was the seemingly impervious Spanish duo of Seve Ballesteros and Jose-Maria Olazabal. Down two with six holes to play, Ballesteros made birdie putts of 12 and 10 feet at the 13th and 15th holes to square the match, then came home in the gathering darkness to finish the match even.
With the draw, Ballesteros and Olazabal went 3-0-1 in team play over the two days and are 9-1-1 in their Ryder Cup careers.
For the Europeans, Ian Woosnam and Paul Broadhurst defeated Paul Azinger and Hale Irwin, 2 and 1; Mark James and Steven Richardson knocked off Lanny Wadkins and Wayne Levi, 3 and 1; and Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie beat Corey Pavin and Steve Pate, 2 and 1.
The wind blew hard yesterday on a course that has 10 holes bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The closing five holes played into the wind, and the combination of weather and jangling nerves made the afternoon competition more of a test of survival rather than golf.
The U.S. history of poor showings in the fourball continued. The Americans haven't won a fourball round at the Ryder Cup since 1983, going 10-21-5 since that time, including a 1-2-1 mark in Friday's fourball phase.
But the United States has won the foursome -- or alternate-shot -- competition in each of the first two days by identical 3-1 scores. The Americans duplicated their Friday performance yesterday, as Paul Azinger and Mark O'Meara thrashed Nick Faldo and David Gilford, 7 and 6.
The misfortune of the United States in the fourball is particularly perplexing to team captain Dave Stockton.
"We always have trouble in this type of format, and I don't know why," Stockton said.
Though PGA Tour players compete in medal, or stroke, play, the Americans are not unaccustomed to match play. Many compete in match play during practice rounds, teaming up for a small wager, as do weekend duffers everywhere.
The Americans don't usually play alternate shot, but they played it well again yesterday. In addition to Azinger-O'Meara, other U.S. foursome wins were posted by Wadkins and Irwin, 4 and 2 over David Feherty and Sam Torrance, and by Payne Stewart and Mark Calcavecchia, who won, 1-up, over James and Richardson when Richardson missed a 4-foot par putt at the 18th hole.