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Dahlberg: Tough to win Ryder Cup without a plan
COMMENTARYNEWPORT, Wales - The clock started ticking for Corey Pavin and the rest of the U.S. Ryder Cup brain trust as soon as Francesco Molinari holed the putt that hurt the most.One hour was all they had, 60 minutes to come up with something that would work because all their best laid plans of the last two years didn't.The obvious choice was to take a page from the past, send out the best early and hope to somehow, some way, get some momentum to turn the Ryder Cup around. You know, the way Ben Crenshaw so famously rallied the troops 11 years ago at Brookline.The problem is, no one knows who the best U.S. players are anymore.Tiger Woods? Not after the whipping he and Steve Stricker took Sunday. The $10 million man Jim Furyk? He seems to be suffering a FedEx Cup hangover.And where do you hide Phil Mickelson, well on his way to making his mark as the worst Ryder Cup player of recent history?"There's nobody to hide, but thank you for asking," Pavin said.One hour to come up with a plan. Pavin barely needed 30 minutes to scribble down his names.If there is a comeback, Woods won't be the one igniting it. If the momentum is to shift, it will happen while Mickelson is still having breakfast.If the U.S. is going to somehow retain the Ryder Cup, guys like Steve Stricker and Stewart Cink are going to have to lead the way.And if Pavin has some grand strategy, his opposing captain seems as perplexed by it as everyone else."It does surprise me that match eight and 10 contain the No. 1 and 2 in the world," European captain Colin Montgomerie said.Surprise might be an understatement for Pavin's decision to put Woods out eighth in the day and Mickelson two pairings later. It's almost like the taciturn U.S. captain looked at Woods' balky swing and Mickelson's lousy putter and decided they had little chance of giving him points anyway.But emotions are everything in the Ryder Cup, and relegating the best two players in the world to support roles can't do much to inspire a U.S. team that kicked away any realistic chance of winning Sunday afternoon after briefly rallying to make it a contest. By the time Woods and Mickelson make the turn Monday, the Europeans might already be celebrating in front of crowds who care as much about this competition as they do.It's not as if the odds weren't already stacked against the Americans. Molinari's final putt to pull out another half point for Europe made the score 9?-6?, meaning the U.S. would have to pull off the second biggest comeback in singles to take the Ryder Cup home with them.The biggest, of course, was at Brookline, where the U.S. rode the wave of early wins on the final day after being down 10-6 to win one of the wildest Ryder Cups ever. At Brookline, though, the European team was so weak that three players were benched until the final day and a raucous crowd helped fuel the Yanks' charge.Here, the Euro team was favored to begin with and is playing with tremendous confidence on its home turf. The fans will cheer wildly every good iron shot, and roar on every made putt.It doesn't help that this U.S. team is captained by a man who now seems to be winging it as he goes along. Pavin couldn't explain why he thought the No. 8 pairing was such an important slot for Woods, just as he couldn't explain why his players kept leaving putts short all day while the Europeans made sure the ones they hit got to the hole.And how can you explain a captain claiming to be happy to see steady progress by his team when there's just one day to go in this, the longest Ryder Cup ever?Don't bother asking the U.S. players, as if you can find them. They got off the course as fast as they could and hid in the team room, safe from inquiring minds of reporters who wanted to know."I left it up to the players to do whatever they would like to do," Pavin said. "It's their choice to talk or not to talk."The choice was an easy one. From the safety of the team room they issued a few quotes talking about battling hard and trying to win on Monday, but there was no insight into why they thought they could start playing better or how they planned to do it.Not that it really matters. They're being outplayed, Pavin is being outcoached, and it won't be long before the Americans are out watching the Euros celebrate on the balcony of the Celtic Manor clubhouse.Montgomerie seems to be in a hurry to get it over. He penciled in his powerhouse trio of Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald to lead off, clearly hoping to stop any whiff of an American comeback before it even begins.It's a good move, and Monty has the better players. It's a tough combination to beat.Especially tough for a team that doesn't seem to have a plan.Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com read full article
Europeans seize Ryder Cup lead
NEWPORT, Wales - Europe could only dream of a Sunday like this at the Ryder Cup. It gave Tiger Woods his worst beating ever, hit all the right shots to spur on its foot-stomping, flag-waving crowd and kept the Americans from winning a single match.Too bad this one won't end until today.The Europeans already had reason to be in a festive mood amid the rain and muck of Celtic Manor.Bolstered by the sight of blue on every leaderboard, they won five matches and halved the last one when Francesco Molinari knocked in a 3-foot birdie putt and celebrated with his brother, Edoardo. That stretched their lead to 9?-6?.Europe needs to win only five of the 12 singles match to reclaim the gold trophy."In my time - 20 years since I've been playing Ryder Cup - this is one of the greatest days for European golf we've ever had," European captain Colin Montgomerie said. "To run a two-point deficit into a three-point lead was quite amazing. To stop America from winning a match, just fantastic."Lee Westwood, Europe's leader in the team room and on the golf course, inspired from the start. He teamed with Luke Donald to demoralize Woods and Steve Stricker, who had never lost in six previous matches. Europe was 4 up when the matches resumed, and Westwood promptly knocked in a 30-foot birdie putt to win the hole. The cheer was heard by every match on the course.More big putts followed until they had a 6-and-5 victory, the biggest rout of the week."When you're playing Tiger, you just seem to up your game a little bit," said Westwood, who is 6-1 in team matches against Woods. "I supposed he's got nothing to win - apart from the point - but he's got a big reputation."PGA champion Martin Kaymer and Ian Poulter held off a rally to beat Phil Mickelson and 21-year-old Rickie Fowler. Mickelson set an American record with his 17th loss and headed into singles without having contributed a point.Rain again soaked the course, forcing a five-hour delay and pushing the Ryder Cup into Monday for the first time in its 83-year history.Europe was leading in all six matches when play resumed, and Montgomerie walked along the practice range repeating the same message he had delivered the night before."We know the Americans are going to come out fast," he said. "But we are going to go out faster."What gave Europe such a big lead is that it finished stronger.Even with Westwood and Donald making quick work in the opening match, and with Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy winning their first match against Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan in alternate shot, the remaining fourballs matches could have gone either way.And over the last five holes in each match, they almost did.Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar were the only Americans to lead in a match. They were 1 up playing the 18th until Francesco Molinari stuffed his wedge into 3 feet for a half-point that left Kuchar and his teammates sagging their shoulders as they trudged off the course.Dustin Johnson, who joined Mickelson as the only American without a point, and Jim Furyk were on the cusp of a big rally until Johnson three-putted for bogey on the 14th to fall 2-down. They never caught up against Padraig Harrington and Ross Fisher.Jeff Overton introduced a new cheer to the European crowd - "Booooom, baby!!" - when he holed a shot from the fairway for eagle on the eighth. He and Bubba Watson squared the match, only for Peter Hanson to make a crucial birdie for the halve on the 15th, and Miguel Angel Jimenez to deliver a pivotal 15-foot birdie on the 16th in a 2-up victory.Fowler holed out from a bunker for eagle on the 11th, and Mickelson's birdie on the 13th helped the Americans tie their match. Mickelson then missed putts inside 8 feet to lose the next two holes, keeping European blue on the board."I saw guys fighting and not getting the result we were looking for," Pavin said. "But we nearly did."The fans were swaying, stomping and singing a tune now so familiar to the Americans - "Ole, ole, ole, ole" - as Europe marched confidently off the 18th green and into the team room, momentum and history on its side.Only once since this format began in 1979 has Europe had the lead going into the final round and failed to win. That was in 1999 at Brookline, when the Americans overcame a 10-6 deficit behind a home crowd that was raucous and unruly.Montgomerie brought up those ugly memories when he met with his squad Sunday night after the matches."All this would be pointless today if this isn't continued tomorrow," Montgomerie said. "Yes, we are tired. The USA team must be tired, as well. But there's no resting here for our team. We are going here as if it's tied to try and win the singles session. That's our goal. And there will be nobody backing down from that goal tomorrow."Position of strengthPavin, a stoic personality throughout the week, was reminded of that great American comeback in 1999, when U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw said he was a big believer in fate and added ominously, "I have a good feeling about this."As for Pavin?"Ben's Ben, and I'm me," Pavin said. "I'm going to put the guys out in the order that I think gives us the best chance to win."Montgomerie is leading off with strength - Westwood against Stricker, and the top part of his Monday lineup is loaded with some of his best performers at Celtic Manor, with McIlroy, Poulter and Donald at the top.Pavin has Woods in the eighth spot against Francesco Molinari, while Mickelson is at No. 10 against Peter Hanson. Then again, it's hard to figure out who is playing well for the Americans this week - especially after the beating they took on Sunday."We're going to try to close the gap and see if we can make a run at this," Mickelson said. read full article
Ryder Cup Singles: Montgomerie Stacks For Early Knockout of U.S.
Tom Edrington AHN Sports Reporter Newport, Wales, United Kingdom (AHN) European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie said he has three different lineups, depending on his team being in front, behind or tied going into the Monday singles matches at Celtic Manor. Montgomerie and U.S. captain Corey Pavin released their singles matches lineups Sunday evening and it is apparent that the European team wants to put the Americans away early. Lee Westwood, the highest ranking European player who will claim the No. 2 spot in the world this week, will lead off Europes lineup. He will go against Steve Stricker. Rory McIlroy, who wanted to face Tiger Woods in singles, will have to settle for Stewart Cink in the second match while Luke Donald, considered Europes second-best player, will lock up with FedEx Cup champion Jim Furyk in the third match. Martin Kaymer takes on winless Dustin Johnson in the fourth match out followed by Ian Poulter and Matt Kuchar to round out the important first five matches. The remaining pairings: Ross Fisher vs. Jeff Overton. Miguel Angel Jimenez vs. Bubba Watson. Francesco Molinari vs. Tiger Woods. Edoardo Molinari vs. Rickie Fowler. Peter Hanson vs. Phil Mickelson. Paddy Harrington vs. Zach Johnson. Graeme McDowell vs. Hunter Mahan. Europe holds a 9 1/2 to 6 1/2 lead, and needs just five points on Monday to capture the Cup. The United States needs seven and a half points to earn a tie at 14-14 that would allow it to retain title to the Cup. The U.S. rallied from a larger deficit, 10-6, back in 1999 at the Country Club at Brookline. Team captain Ben Crenshaw saw his team capture the first six matches and eight of the first 10 on their way to a storied comeback after Crenshaws Im a big believer in fate. And I have a good feeling about this speech on the eve of the singles finale 11 years ago. Corey Pavin shrugged off the 5 1/2 1/2 battering his team suffered on Sunday. It happens. It happens to the best of em, Pavin said. One thing I can guarantee you is team USA is going to come out tomorrow [Monday], play hard and try to win the Ryder Cup. Article AHN All Rights Reserved
Ryder Cup Quest Turns Into Nighmare For U.S. Team
Tom Edrington AHN Sports Reporter Newport, Wales, United Kingdom (AHN) The nightmare of Saturday evening turned into a dreadful reality Sunday in the rain and sunshine at Celtic Manor for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. An inspired European team turned the tide of the competition and takes a commanding 9 1-2 to 6 1-2 lead into the 12 singles matches to be staged in the first-ever Monday finale for this historic competition. The Americans were simply buried during the two alternate shot and four best-ball matches that started Saturday evening and concluded after a brief rain delay Sunday. The Europeans won five of the six matches and tied the other and need only five points from the singles matches to regain the Cup. The United States team will have to regroup and hope it can pull off a miraculous rally reminiscient of the miracle comeback at Brookline in 1999 that was inspired by then captain Ben Crenshaw. The U.S. won the first six matches in the singles that final day in 99 and won eight of the first 10 to win the Cup. This time, the U.S. will have to come up with five and a half points on Monday that would forge a tie and allow the Americans to keep the Cup with 14 total points. The faces of the team captains reflected the situations for their respective squads. Colin Montgomerie was ear-to-ear smiles as his team played with the passion he hoped it would find. It was a huge momentum swing to the European side. It was indeed, Montgomerie said. You have to have 12 guys to win this thing. This format did favor Europe. My objective was to get into the singles matches at 8-all, said Montgomerie, who watched the Molinari brothers, Francesco and Edoardo take away a U.S. opportunity for a single point in the final match at the final hole. The Molinaris were one-down standing on the 18th tee to Matt Kuchar and Stewart Cink. All four players had short wedge shots to the green at the par five and after Cink and Kuchar hit unimpressive shots, Francesco his a remarkable shot that stopped just inside four feet from the hole. He made the putt, got the half point and sent the pro-European crowd into a frenzy. You have to give them (the Molinaris) credit, their captain said after the putt. It was fantastic for us. The entire day was fantastic for Montys squad. It started with a total wipeout of the Tiger Woods-Steve Stricker team by Lee Westwood and Luke Donald. The European duo won 6-and-5 giving Woods his worst-ever loss in Ryder Cup competition. The other alternate shot match saw Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan beaten 3-and-1 by the Irish duo of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. In the best ball, nothing turned out well. Phil Mickelson stayed winless in this event. He and Rickie Fowler lost to Ian Poulter and Martin Kaymer, 2-and-1. Jim Furyk and Dustin Johnson both remained winless when they lost to Paddy Harrington and Ross Fisher, 2-and-1. Even team rookie for the U.S. Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton were beaten, 2-up on the final hole by Miguel Angel Jiminez and Peter Hanson. Only Cink and Kuchar prevented the dreaded goose-egg. The look on American captain Corey Pavins face told the other side of the story. Pavin looked on grim and expressionless and uninspired as he watched Kuchar and Cink lose the final hole. Were still okay, Pavin insisted. Im really proud of the guys. They hung tough. They know what they have to do. We wont talk much. Theyll figure out what they have to do and come out and do it. To do it the play will have to be superb and the rally furious for the U.S. team, like the one staged 11 years ago at Brookline. But momentum going into the 12 singles finals is clearly on the European side and the huge crowd has grown louder and louder as the European lead swelled. Momentum, said Montgomerie, is the key in these matches. Article AHN All Rights Reserved
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