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Archive for Sunday, September 19, 2004

Americans dig Ryder Cup hole

Europeans surge to 11-5 lead entering final day

September 19, 2004

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— The Americans' comeback was short-lived. The next one will have to be the biggest ever for them to win the Ryder Cup.

Backed by the clutch performance from its English rookies and reliable play from Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, Europe put the United States in another huge hole Saturday by taking an 11-5 lead and making victory today seem like a mere formality.

Europe looked like it might get swept in the morning, but recovered to win 11/2 points to maintain its lead. Then it turned the Ryder Cup into a runaway, sending Tiger Woods and Davis Love III to a crushing loss and whipping up on the rest of their teammates.

The Americans can't even rely on memories from Brookline five years ago, when they trailed 10-6 before staging the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history by front-loading their best players to build momentum and eventually winning on Justin Leonard's 45-foot birdie putt. Finding their best players is the real problem, not to mention a six-point deficit.

"There's not a lot we can say," U.S. captain Hal Sutton said. "We've been outplayed to this point. We'll have to come out charging."

Europe will be waiting. Even as its fans wrapped themselves in flags and heartily sang "Ole! Ole!," the players were cautious to celebrate too early.

"We've got too much respect for the Americans," Paul McGinley said after he and Padraig Harrington stormed back from an early deficit to beat Woods and Love.

European captain Bernhard Langer allowed three of his rookies to make their Ryder Cup debuts Saturday, and two of them shined. Paul Casey and David Howell won the final two holes for a 1-up victory in a better-ball that kept the Americans at bay and sent a surge of confidence through their teammates in the afternoon.

Woods, who won earlier Saturday with the ebullient Chris Riley, teamed with Love to win the first two holes and seemed destined to make it a short match.

Sergio Garcia celebrates a birdie during Ryder Cup play. Garcia and
the European squad built an 11-5 advantage Saturday in Bloomfield
Township, Mich.

Sergio Garcia celebrates a birdie during Ryder Cup play. Garcia and the European squad built an 11-5 advantage Saturday in Bloomfield Township, Mich.

"I didn't see a way out for us," Harrington said

Woods and Love bogeyed four out of six holes in the middle of the match and lost, 4 and 3.

Phil Mickelson, benched in the morning after his poor play Friday, joined David Toms for the lone U.S. victory in the afternoon, 4 and 3 over Thomas Levet and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

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