Europe maintained their perfect start to the 36th Ryder Cup on Saturday morning, after winning their third consecutive session of play to extend their lead to three points over the USA.
European fans must be delighted with their team’s start, and Ian Woosnam’s men are already more than halfway to retaining the famous trophy. It looks as if the US team are going to need one of their famed final day charges in the singles if they are to wrestle the trophy back to the other side of the Atlantic.
The two key battles of Saturday morning were the middle two games, which featured Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal against Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco, and Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke versus Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods. Europe won them both to keep the momentum firmly in their favour and delight their skipper Ian Woosnam.
The first match to complete was the one featuring the Spaniards, and Garcia and Olazabal kept up their 100% records this in year’s event by securing a 3&2 win that put Europe 6-3 up. Mickelson was once again in disarray as a poor Ryder Cup for America’s big name players continued. Only some excellent battling qualities shown by DiMarco kept the score respectable. Garcia did not produce the heroics of yesterday but played steadily enough, while Olzabal was at his mercurial best – particularly off the tee, which so often has been his weakness.
The biggest moment of the morning session was when Darren Clarke chipped in from the side of the 16th green to clinch a 3&2 win for him and Lee Westwood over Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk. The shot was greeted by an enormous roar from the rain-soaked crowd and put the gloss on a convincing win for the European pair. Their contribution so far has totally justified their selection as wildcards by skipper Ian Woosnam. US captain Tom Lehman must be deeply concerned by the form of Woods, however, and he was totally out of sorts this morning, leaving Furyk to do most of the work in vain.
The third match home was the first to set out, as Europe’s Paul Casey birdied the 18th to rescue a half for him and Robert Karlsson against Stewart Cink and JJ Henry. Europe had twice held a two hole lead, but some superb play from Henry when he eagled the 16th and birdied the 17th meant that the USA had a one hole lead going down the last. Casey found the par-5’s green in two and two putts were enough to clinch the hole and a very valuable half. Henry performed well once again and was unlucky not to win – he looks like he will have a long future in the Ryder Cup.
With the score standing at 7.5 – 3.5 Europe, the Americans managed to cut the gap by winning the last match of the session. It was a crucial and brave win for Scott Verplank and Zach Johnson, who were never behind in the match but saw Europe’s Padraig Harrington birdie the 15th and 16th holes to move him and Henrik Stenson close. However, some excellent play from Johnson, who carded seven birdies by himself, meant that the USA held on and kept alive their apprarently slim hopes of regaining the Ryder Cup.
SATURDAY FOURBALL RESULTS
Europe 7.5 – 4.5 USA
P Casey & R Karlssson (Eur) halved with S Cink and JJ Henry (USA)
S Garcia & JM Olazabal (Eur) beat P Mickelson & C DiMarco (USA) 3&2
D Clarke & L Westwood (Eur) beat T Woods & J Furyk (USA) 3&2
S Verplank & Z Johnson (USA) beat P Harrington & H Stenson 2&1