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U.S. Takes Lead in Ryder Cup : Golf: It is the first time the United States has led after the first day since 1985.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Here’s how opening day of this Ryder Cup tournament differed from 1989: Fred Couples, who had cried as he left the final hole at England’s The Belfry, said he had had “a blast” as he and partner Raymond Floyd walked away from their last hole here Friday.

They had won both of their matches, helping the Americans to a 4 1/2-3 1/2 lead over the Europeans in this team golf competition. The last time the United States led after the first day was in 1985.

In the morning round, each two-man team played alternate shots on the same ball. In the afternoon there was four-ball play, with scoring based on the better ball of each two-man team.

The Americans won three of four alternate-shot matches. Couples and Floyd won their four-ball match and Lanny Wadkins and Mark O’Meara halved theirs.

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“It’s a mystery to me why we do better at alternate shot,” U.S. team captain Dave Stockton said. “I still think the alternate-shot format is harder.”

Stockton’s philosophy guiding this Ryder Cup differs from that of Floyd’s when he captained the team in 1989. Floyd wanted to play all 12 members of the team, saying there was more to the Ryder Cup than winning or losing.

Stockton has made it clear that his team is here to win. And so he will pair Floyd, 49, with Couples again this morning, even though Floyd spent about 12 hours playing 32 holes Friday on the physically demanding Ocean Course, contending with a blustery wind that didn’t settle until the afternoon.

“Couples and Raymond make a great team,” Stockton said. “Raymond can rest next week.”

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One of the main reasons Stockton used an at-large pick on Floyd was to pair him with Couples. It was a pick questioned by many who felt Stockton should have chosen a younger player. But Stockton had seen the two combine to shoot 15 under par and win the Shark Shootout at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks last year. He says that Floyd brings out the best in Couples.

American Steve Pate, who suffered a painful abdominal bruise in a car accident Wednesday night, is not scheduled for the morning matches but might play later in the day. Stockton had said he might pair Pate with Corey Pavin or Wadkins, both of whom had difficulty in their four-ball matches. Wadkins and O’Meara blew a three-hole lead to halve their match, and Pavin and Mark Calcavecchia lost to Steven Richardson and Mark James, 5 and 4.

The Europeans’ strongest team, Seve Ballesteros and Jose-Maria Olazabal, won both of their matches against Paul Azinger and Chip Beck. But Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo, unbeaten in Ryder Cup play since 1985, lost to Couples and Floyd in the four-ball match and fell, 1-up, to Payne Stewart and Calcavecchia in the morning. European team captain Bernard Gallacher is “resting” Woosnam this morning.

“We need to get a few more putts in tomorrow, and I think that could be a factor,” Gallacher said. “I don’t think the team putted well today.”

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Residents of this island and neighboring Charleston, indeed a world-wide audience, turned out 25,000 strong to celebrate international golf. And some remembered that the day the last Ryder Cup began in England, on Sept. 22, 1989, Hurricane Hugo slammed into the coastline of South Carolina, leaving a path of death and destruction.

On the barren, unpopulated portion of this island, where work had just been begun on the Ocean Course, eight-foot sand dunes that border the Atlantic Ocean were leveled and marsh was left a tangled web of sticks. Only the alligators seemed to survive.

There was civic pride on display Friday morning when play began on a course that is already being heralded as a masterpiece.

The first foursome off the tee was the most interesting of the morning matches and produced the only American defeat.

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Azinger and Beck were three holes up in alternate-shot play on Ballesteros and Olazabal after the front nine, then didn’t win a hole the rest of the way. Instead, the Spaniards, who hadn’t won on the front, won five on the back, all with birdies. Ballesteros finished the match on No. 17 by sinking a 25-foot, downhill putt to win, 2 and 1.

Ballesteros got fired up on the backside, possibly because of a dispute over whether Beck and Azinger had used the correct ball on No. 7. It was an incident that caused Azinger to call Ballesteros the “king of gamesmanship.”

In alternate-shot play, the ball of the player teeing off is used for the remainder of the hole and each player must designate the type of ball he will use for the round. On the 10th tee, Ballesteros charged that Beck had used a different-compression ball on his drive on the seventh hole.

That Ballesteros waited to point that out made it a moot point, according to referee Larry Startzel.

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If the infraction had been caught before the eighth hole was played, Ballesteros and Olazabal would have been awarded the hole.

When the players arrived at the 10th hole, a 15-minute discussion ensued. Azinger said later that he thought Ballesteros had argued to distract him and Beck, who were up by three holes. And Azinger, who has had run-ins with Ballesteros, admitted the incident did distract him.

“We never thought they would cheat or anything like that. That never came into our minds,” Ballesteros said. “But we just wanted to make sure of what we were doing. That’s why instead of calling the officials (about it) we called our captain.”

Beck and Azinger bogeyed the 10th hole, handing the Spaniards their first hole of the match.

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After that, Ballesteros who had been wild off the tee on the front nine, settled in. He and Olazabal won the 12th hole, squared the match on 13 and moved ahead on 15 to stay.

Things may be get all the more interesting this morning, when the final alternate-shot match will pair Ballesteros and Olazabal against Floyd and Couples.

LPGA: Lisa Walters made seven long putts to take a three-stroke lead after two rounds in the MBS tournament at Los Coyotes. C2


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