The USA will need a repeat of their stunning comeback at Brookline in 1999 if they are to regain the Ryder Cup after they fell four points behind Europe after the penultimate day’s play at the K Club.
Thus far it has been a comprehensive display of teamwork by the Europeans. Every player has played at least twice and contributed to the building of a lead that looks daunting for the USA. The highlight of the afternoon was Paul Casey’s hole-in-one on the 14th, which clinched a point for him and his partner David Howell.
Europe edged the session for the fourth time in a row, going one point further clear at 10-6. The Americans, traditionally strong in the singles, will be hoping that captain Tom Lehman can inspire them tomorrow, where every point will be critical.
“We need a repeat of Brookline in 1999,” said Tiger Woods after partnering Jim Furyk in a 4&2 defeat of Irish do Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley – only the third win by a US pair out of sixteen opportunities in this year’s renewal.
“The score was the same back then going into the singles and we pulled it off. It’s going to be tough though as the Europeans have played really well and have great support. I’m going to need to earn my point and so are the other guys. We have to win every match, as the Europeans don’t look like gifting us anything.”
Woods was speaking after him and Furyk won their second match of the tournament and restored some of the pride back, having been humbled yesterday afternoon and this morning. Woods played far better this afternoon than he had in the early fourballs, his short game and putting seemingly back to somewhere near their best. Harrington and McGinley had trailed for most of the match and the end seemed nigh when Furyk held a monster putt on the 15th green to secure at least a half. Not long after McGinley put his second shot on the 16th into the water the 4&2 victory for the USA was confirmed.
It was a rare bright spot for the beleaguered Americans. Earlier in the afternoon, Casey’s hole-in-one had secured a 5&4 win for him and David Howell over Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson. It was a spectacular finish to a match that Europe had dominated since finding themselves four up after five holes. The 29 year-old Englishman then finished the job by holing his 213 yard tee shot on the 14th, the first hole-in-one the new HSBC World Matchplay champion has hit in tournament golf.
Sergio Garcia has been the undoubted star performer on either side so far and this afternoon he won his fourth point out of four by partnering Luke Donald to a 2&1 win over Phil Mickelson and David Toms. Garcia’s form is in stark contrast to Mickelson, with the US star having just half-a-point to his name thus far in four attempts. Europe led from the second hole and delivered the killer blow on the 16th green, when Donald sank a massive putt to break the resistance of the Americans. They had no answer to it and stuttered to defeat on the next green.
Lee Westwood moved his points tally up to three and remained unbeaten at this year’s Ryder Cup, but it could have been so much better for the Englishman and his partner Colin Montgomerie despite their half against Chad Campbell and Vaughn Taylor. At all square on the 18th fairway – with neither side ever more than one up throughout the match – Montgomerie hit a majestic 3-wood from 240 yards to twelve feet. Westwood failed to hole out meaning Europe had to settle for a half, probably a fair result on the balance of the match.
Taylor and Campbell played very well against such an experienced duo and, with Zach Johnson and JJ Henry also impressing, Tom Lehman will be very proud of the way his unheralded and much-derided inexperienced players have performed. On the flip side, he will be disappointed at how his top men have failed to spark.
Having spoken before the tournament of the need for his top men to lead by example, his ‘big three’ have not contributed as much to the cause as Lehman would have hoped. Woods and Furyk have only had a 50% success rate, while Mickelson’s poor run of form has continued miserably. All three will need to find their best form quickly if the USA are to overcome a four point deficit and regain the Ryder Cup tomorrow.
AFTERNOON FOURSOMES RESULTS
EUROPE 10-6 USA
C Mont’rie & L Westwood (Eur) halved with C Campbell & Vaughn Taylor (USA)
S Garcia & L Donald (Eur) beat P Mickelson & D Toms (USA) 2&1
P Casey & D Howell (Eur) beat S Cink & Z Johnson (USA) 5&4
T Woods & J Furyk (USA) beat P Harrington & P McGinley (Eur) 4&2