U.S. makes run, but stumbles to trail, 11-5

Early wins raise hopes, but subsequent results dash them in Ryder Cup

Golf

September 19, 2004|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. - The roars that reverberated across Oakland Hills yesterday morning fell silent by late afternoon. The comeback the U.S. team seemed to be making on the second day of the 35th Ryder Cup fell apart.

By last night, the chance of the Americans winning back the Cup had fallen into two categories: slim and none.

After cutting its five-point deficit to three with victories in the first two best-ball matches yesterday, an embarrassed and embattled U.S. team quickly ran out of steam.

As a result, the U.S. team trails 11-5 going into today's singles matches, meaning it will have to make an even more historic turnaround than it did by coming back from four points down to win at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., in 1999.

That, by the way, was the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history.

Unlike former U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw, whose feelings about fate became a central theme five years ago, Hal Sutton knows that his team will have to rely on its own talents rather than any mystical intervention by the golfing gods.

Or, as was the case outside Boston, an inspirational speech like the one then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush delivered at the team hotel the night before the singles matches.

"There's 12 guys that know what they have got to do," Sutton said last night. "I'm not going to whip these guys. These guys have already been whipped in terms of the way they've played. I think they will respond tomorrow and play great. Whether they play great enough to win, I mean that's pretty great in order to win."

The Europeans didn't need any outside help yesterday, instead using a pair of Ryder Cup rookies to change the momentum of the morning matches - and probably the competition - in their team's favor.

Englishmen Paul Casey and David Howell, whom European captain Bernhard Langer chose to sit out on Thursday, stopped the U.S. comeback cold by coming back from one hole down with two to play to beat Jim Furyk and Chad Campbell in best-ball.

"Many of you probably thought I'm sacrificing a point when I sent them out," Langer said later. "I really deep down felt they would be the surprise of the morning. To win the last two holes and win a point for us ... that changed everything."

The victory by Casey and Howell came shortly after Jay Haas and Chris DiMarco lost an early two-hole lead and halved their match against Sergio Garcia of Spain and Lee Westwood of England. Dead even going into the monstrous, par-4 18th, the Americans couldn't take advantage of Haas being the only player to put his drive in the fairway.

Instead of further cutting into the European lead, the Americans trailed 8-4 going into yesterday afternoon.

"I think it took some of the energy away, but more importantly, it gave them energy," Sutton said of the victory by Casey and Howell.

The U.S. deficit would grow as the afternoon wore on, with Haas and DiMarco getting smoked by Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland and Westwood, 5-and-4; Tiger Woods, who had won his first point in the morning with Chris Riley, beating Ian Poulter of England and Clarke, 4-and-3, then lost with Davis Love III to Irishmen Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley, 4-and-3.

"I didn't hit the ball well in the afternoon and I didn't putt well," said Woods, who had helped win the first two holes of the match with Love and then missed some crucial short par putts - after poor lags by his partner - later on. "It was not a good time to have that happen."

In the final match of the day, former Maryland coach Fred Funk and Jim Furyk cut a three-hole deficit against Garcia and Luke Donald through 14 holes to one going into 18, but wound up losing the match, 1-up. European team members jumped up in celebration, knowing they had to win only three points today to retain the Cup.

Interestingly, the only point the Americans won in the afternoon came from Phil Mickelson and David Toms, both of whom had been benched by Sutton yesterday morning after playing poorly on Thursday. They broke open a close match with Manuel Angel Jimenez of Spain and Thomas Levet of France on the back nine to win, 4-and-3.

"I had a brutal night last night," said Mickelson. "I felt like I let not just my teammates down, but all of the fans and everybody who is supporting the U.S. team. It's a miserable feeling."

That was probably the feeling the Americans would take to bed with them last night, most of all Sutton. Nearly every move he has made here, starting with teaming Woods and Mickelson twice the first day, has gone awry. He admitted he has run out of options, and today he will have Woods, Mickelson and Love go out first.

"We have a large deficit that we have to overcome and maybe the Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson that y'all know hasn't actually been there this week, but there's a good chance that they might be there tomorrow," said Sutton.

Woods will meet Casey, who asked Langer to be given a shot at the world's former No. 1. Garcia, who has yet to lose a match here, will play Mickelson, and Clarke will face Love.

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