Europe taking the drama out of Ryder Cup
NEWPORT, WALES It may be all over but the shouting for Europe’s Ryder Cup golf team, which turned a 6-4 deficit into a 9½-6½ lead here Sunday.
Europe, favored going into these three-day proceedings—which were turned into four-day proceedings by ongoing bad weather—gathered 5½ points of a possible 6 and appeared to take the remaining drama out of this international competition.
The Ryder Cup will finish here today, its first fourth day of competition in its 83-year history, with 12 singles matches. The United States needs a total of 14 points to retain the cup it won at Valderrama in Louisville in 2008, or 7½ more. Europe needs 14½, or five more.
With European players performing as superbly as expected, and with crowds of more than 40,000 hanging around despite the ever-present cloud bursts and sending roars of approval echoing throughout the valley at the Twenty Ten Course every time a European player made a putt, the prospects for Team USA do not look good.
U.S. captain Corey Pavin put on a brave face, as he has throughout, and said, “I’m proud of our team today. I saw 12 players who fought hard and held their heads high.”
European captain Colin Montgomerie called the day “one of the greatest days for European golf we’ve had.”
The five European matches were won by the teams of Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington and Ross Fisher, Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jimenez, and Ian Poulter and Martin Kaymer. But perhaps the most excitement and drama were provided by the Molinari brothers of Italy, Edoardo and Francesco, who managed just a half-point in their match against Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar, the best U.S. team to date here.
While the five other European teams were winning with some degree of ease, the Molinaris, both Ryder Cup rookies, had lost their lead on the 13th hole. By the time they got to the par-five 18th, Europe had five of the day’s possible six points in its pocket and Cink and Kuchar had a 1-up lead.
But Cink got tangled up in the rough and was out of the hole early, and when it was time to putt, Kuchar had a shot at birdie from 25 feet and the Molinaris were inside of 10, Francesco just 3 feet away for his birdie. Kuchar missed, Edoardo missed and Francesco calmly added the extra half point that seemed to be taken by the Europeans as a huge psychological boost.
Montgomerie took special note afterward.
“To do what they did at the last hole, two rookies, two brothers, coming down to that last hole with everybody in Europe who plays golf, watching,” he said. “Fantastic performance.”
Pavin chose to say little about the failures of his team, choosing the high ground of good effort and another day tomorrow. Those failures would include the loss of Tiger Woods and Edgerton native Steve Stricker to Donald and Westwood, 6 and 5. It marked the worst loss ever for Woods in the Ryder Cup, and the biggest victory margin since Sam Torrance and Costantino Rocca beat Davis Love III and Jeff Maggert, 6 and 5, in 1995.
Another surprising result for the U.S. was the continued poor play of Phil Mickelson, No. 2 in the world behind Woods. Mickelson lost with Rickie Fowler to Poulter and Kaymer and it marked his 17th Ryder Cup defeat, a record for U.S. players.
Interestingly, Pavin’s pairings for Sunday’s singles left Woods going off eighth and Mickelson 10th, perhaps so late in the proceedings that their result will be irrelevant.