What the European team had Friday afternoon in the Ryder Cup against the U.S. at the Country Club:
More shots holed from off the green, 2-1. More happy captains, 1-0. More momentum (immeasurable). More hugs and smiles and backs slapped, 161-12 (unofficial). More points, 6-2 (official).
After one day and eight matches, it's a darned good thing this Ryder Cup thing is only an exhibition, all right. The U.S. won one match all day, earned only half a point in four afternoon matches, watched four European Ryder Cup rookies walk off the course undefeated, saw Tiger Woods and David Duval go winless and witnessed in person as the entire team played just badly enough to get dusted, big time.
There is one bright spot for the Americans, though. They looked really swell in their clothes.
All in all, it was not a banner day for the world ranking-loaded, reputation-boasting, heavily favored pack of golfing elite. How bad was it? It equaled the worst first day for the U.S. in Ryder Cup history--the same margin Europe held in 1987 at Muirfield Village in Ohio.
By the way, that led to Europe's first victory on U.S. soil . . . and victory was repeated in 1995 at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y. And unless things start changing in a hurry, there's a chance it's becoming habit-forming.
Mark James, the European captain, sounded a note of caution.
"Well, 6-2 sounds like a lot, but it's only a four-point lead," he said.
Ben Crenshaw, the U.S. captain, insisted he liked his pairings, that he would do the same thing again and that he isn't unhappy.
"I don't think that 6-2 indicates how our people played today," Crenshaw said. "My team thought it played very well."
Typical of the U.S. plight was how Duval and Woods played the 18th hole, trying to halve their afternoon four-ball match with Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke. Woods drove into the right rough and also found a greenside bunker. Duval drove into the rough and then sent his approach to the side of the grandstand.
Westwood chipped it close and calmly closed out a 1-up victory over the top two ranked players in the world. The scoreboard reading so far: Woods 0-2, Duval 0-2.
This can't really be how Woods, Duval, Crenshaw or just about anyone could have seen it going. As a reward, Duval found himself benched for this morning's alternate-shot matches. Phil Mickelson takes a seat too.
"Anyone can lose a couple of matches," James said.
On the U.S. team, anyone did. If it weren't for a 20-foot birdie putt by Davis Love III on the 18th hole, partnered with Justin Leonard, the U.S. would have been blanked in the afternoon four-ball matches.
Shooting blanks with his putter was Mickelson. Playing with Jim Furyk in the afternoon, he missed a four-footer at 16 that would have pulled the U.S. even with Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik, then missed a seven-footer on 18 that would have halved the match.
"It's extremely disappointing," Mickelson said.
In the meantime, a star European team emerged--Garcia and Parnevik. Not only did they win both of their matches, they also matched eagles in the afternoon, Parnevik holing out on the par-four No. 8 and Garcia chipping in on the par-five No. 14.
Said Parnevik: "I hope we don't have to play this well every day."
Woods and Duval are going to have to play even better. When Woods chipped in for birdie on No. 10 in the afternoon, it seemed as though he would be able to whip up some emotion, but it didn't last. Duval and Woods bogeyed the next hole and Clarke won it with a birdie to get the match back to even.
Hoping for a fast start, the U.S. players wanted to get going early in the morning matches. Apparently, they overslept. Yes, Tom Lehman did chip in on the first hole in his match with Woods to give the U.S. a quick edge against Garcia and Parnevik, but that was about it in the red-and-white, alternate-shot color scheme.
Lehman-Woods managed one birdie over the last 12 holes of the match and lost, 2 and 1.
Woods blamed too many missed putts.
"That's the way it goes sometimes," he said.
Actually, Woods was correct, and it went that way for the U.S. team most of the day. After the first four matches, Europe led, 2 1/2-1 1/2, which isn't much, but it seemed extremely significant anyway.
The only U.S. team to win in the morning was Hal Sutton-Jeff Maggert, who defeated Westwood-Clarke, 3 and 2. Buoyed by this spirited victory, Maggert-Sutton went out in the afternoon and lost to Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal, 2 and 1.
In the morning, Duval and Mickelson lost badly to Colin Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie, 3 and 2, which prompted an immediate head-scratching incident from Duval.
"I really can't give you a very good explanation for that score," Duval said.
Try this one: three birdies, 13 pars, no bogeys for Montgomerie-Lawrie.
There may be better days ahead for the U.S., but if there was one match that should have told everybody that the home team was in for a huge struggle it was Love-Payne Stewart against Jimenez-Padraig Harrington in the morning.
On paper, it looked like a mismatch, but that has been the misleading story line for a while now--two veteran, experienced U.S. players against two Ryder Cup rookies. It took a 10-foot putt for par by Love on the 17th hole to pull even with the Europeans and the match eventually was halved.
It was a difficult half-point, all right, but if that result was a surprise, it shouldn't have been. Instead, it should have been interpreted as a signal of what really bad things were about to happen in the afternoon. If this continues, the U.S. players shouldn't worry about getting paid, but they might start thinking about the chances of getting fined.
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EUROPE LED 2 1/2 TO 1 1/2 AFTER FOURSOMES
FOURSOMES (Morning): Each two-man team plays one ball, with players alternating shots.
Europe: Montgomerie and Lawrie bet Duval and Mickelson, 3 and 2
Europe: Garcia and Parnevik beat Lehman and Woods, 2 and 1
United States: Maggert and Sutton beat Westwood and Clarke, 3 and 2
United States: Jimenez and Harrington halved with Love and Stewart
EUROPE LEAD 6-2 AFTER FIRST DAY'S PLAY
FOUR-BALL (Afternoon): Each golfer plays his own ball, with the better score counting for each team.
Europe: Garcia and Parnevik beat Mickelson and Furyk, 1 up
Europe and United States: Montgomerie and Lawrie halved with Love and Leonard
EUROPE: Jimenez and Olazabal beat Sutton and Maggert, 2 and 1
EUROPE: Westwood and Clarke beat Duval and Woods, 1 up
RYDER CUP, THE COUNTRY CLUB: TV, 5 a.m. today, Channel 4
PAIRINGS, Page 6
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Records for players in the 33rd Ryder Cup matches after Friday (one point for each victory, half a point for each halved match):
Four-ball Foursomes Singles Player W-L-H W-L-H W-L-H Total Woods 0-1-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-2-0 Duval 0-1-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-2-0 Stewart 0-0-0 0-0-1 0-0-0 0-0-1 Love 0-0-1 0-0-1 0-0-0 0-0-2 O'Meara 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 Sutton 0-1-0 1-0-0 0-0-0 1-1-0 Furyk 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-1-0 Leonard 0-0-1 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-1 Mickelson 0-1-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-2-0 Maggert 0-1-0 1-0-0 0-0-0 1-1-0 Lehman 0-0-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-1-0 Pate 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0
Four-ball Foursomes Singles Player W-L-H W-L-H W-L-H Total Montgomerie 0-0-1 1-0-0 0-0-0 1-0-1 Westwood 1-0-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 1-1-0 Lawrie 0-0-1 1-0-0 0-0-0 1-0-1 Clarke 1-0-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 1-1-0 Jimenez 1-0-0 0-0-1 0-0-0 1-0-1 Olazabal 1-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 1-0-0 Garcia 1-0-0 1-0-0 0-0-0 2-0-0 Sandelin 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 Van de Velde 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 Harrington 0-0-0 0-0-1 0-0-0 0-0-1 Coltart 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 Parnevik 2-0-0 2-0-0 0-0-0 2-0-0