Faxon gains redemption for missed putt Six-footer for par on 18 eases memory of '95 miss

Ryder Cup

September 27, 1997|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

SOTOGRANDE, Spain -- Brad Faxon waited two years for his chance at redemption. He carried the memory of a crucial missed Faxon putt in the final day of the 1995 Ryder Cup all the way to Valderrama Golf Club and the opening morning of the 32nd Ryder Cup.

What happened to Faxon at Oak Hill -- blowing a 7-footer for par on the 18th hole that would have tied David Gilford -- won't be forgotten. But Faxon will carry a new memory with him, a 6-footer for par on the 18th hole that enabled him and Fred Couples to beat Nick Faldo and Lee Westwood.

"Oak Hill is going to stay with me forever, because we didn't win," Faxon said after his 1-up victory over Westwood and Faldo, the winningest European player in the event's 70-year-old history. "It was a big putt for a lot of reasons. The redemption, the satisfaction of knowing you did something to help your team win a point. It's nice to come through like that."

It has been a tough summer for Faxon. After getting off to a fast start this season that all but locked up his automatic spot on the Ryder Cup team, Faxon's game fell off dramatically. It was recently reported that Faxon's wife, Bonnie, had filed for divorce, seeking to end their 10-year marriage.

Asked if it was difficult to come into this event with a clear mind, Faxon said, "I haven't done it the whole summer, but this event makes you concentrate because it's all about golf. I can't tell you what this means to me."

Couples helped the cause by sticking his approach at the par-5 17th to within 3 feet, then making the birdie putt after Faldo failed to capitalize on a spectacular 4-wood to 12 feet for eagle. Faldo also missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the last hole.

As Faxon was about to putt on 18 -- he had made a terrific shot out of the bunker -- Couples whispered in his ear.

"He told me he loved me," Faxon said, jokingly. At Oak Hill, they won their only previous Ryder Cup match as teammates. "No, he told me it was right center."

Couples' response? "I basically said, 'You're the best putter in the world, go make it.' The putt he missed at Oak Hill was a good putt, it just didn't go in."

This one did. With it, one memory replaced another at the center of Faxon's thoughts.

Faldo comes up short

The defeat in the morning four-ball prevented Faldo, playing in a record 11th Ryder Cup, from tying Arnold Palmer's mark for most matches won (22) and the missed putt prevented him from getting at least a half-point, which would have tied him with Billy Casper for the most points (23 1/2 ).

Swedes make point

The victory by Jesper Parnevik and Per-Ulrik Johansson was only the second point ever won by a Swede in Ryder Cup competition. The first was by Joakim Haeggeman in 1993.

Johansson is more interested in the media coverage he and Parnevik will get by playing.

"I think it's the most important thing," he said. "It's nice with all those love letters and all, but that's not too important. I haven't gotten that much lately."

Pub Date: 9/27/97

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