All the U.S. Ryder Cup team was missing during Day 2 of the
Boston Tee Party were Red Sox caps. If the Americans had been
wearing them, then everything that happened last Saturday
would've made sense. The curse of the Bambino, the ground ball
through Bill Buckner's legs--all the weird things that have made
the Red Sox baseball's hard-luck losers rained down on the
Americans as hard as the unexpected showers that briefly stopped
play at the Country Club.
After Black Friday, the day the U.S. fell four large points
behind the freewheeling Europeans, it looked as if things
couldn't get much worse, but in a way they did. The Americans
hit the Europeans with their best shots, yet gained no ground.
Not a point. Not a half point. Not an inch. The results were
telling and discouraging. In alternate shot in the morning, the
Americans were a cumulative two under par, a remarkably good
score on a course like the Country Club, but the Europeans were
seven under. "No matter what we do," said Davis Love III, "they
do us one better."
The Americans were the Bosox on bentgrass, which is why U.S.
captain Ben Crenshaw hopped out of his cart on the 12th hole to
hug a familiar spectator--Texas governor George W. Bush. "We
need some mojo," Crenshaw told Bush. The Americans also had
Michael Jordan and Mario Lemieux in their gallery, but Mr. Mojo
was not to be found.
The chess match between the captains didn't go Crenshaw's way,
either. Crenshaw's counterpart, Mark James stayed so resolutely
with his first-stringers that he went into Sunday's singles
matches without having used Andrew Coltart, Jarmo Sandelin and
Jean Van de Velde. The last player who didn't appear until the
singles was Gordon Brand in 1983, and never have three players
sat out all the team matches. "It's a great shame they've been
left out," James said, "but I came here with the object of
getting the most points I could."
Van de Velde, surely disappointed, played the role he was given.
"I'll be tense, but I'll be fresh," he said, jokingly, when
asked about not making his entrance until the final day. The
Frenchman, who blew up famously on the final hole of the British
Open, walked the course on Saturday rooting on his teammates and
scored a coup. On the 15th hole he spotted Jordan and asked him
to autograph his cap. Jordan complied, and Van de Velde, holding
his prize up like a war souvenir, showed it to Padraig
Harrington, who with Miguel Angel Jimenez was one down in a
match against Steve Pate and Tiger Woods at the time.
Crenshaw rolled the dice and tried to find some magic by
rearranging his pairings in the morning. After Friday's 6-2
debacle, he had little choice. He gambled and benched four of
America's big guns--Love, David Duval, Tom Lehman and Phil
Mickelson--for the foursomes. Crenshaw may have gambled too soon
and in the wrong session. Alternate shot is the most unforgiving
format, and Mark O'Meara, who wasn't used on the first day and
has been wild off the tee this year, came off the bench to team
with Jim Furyk. They never made a birdie and got waxed by Darren
Clarke and Lee Westwood. Justin Leonard and Payne Stewart won
the second hole of their match when Jesper Parnevik and Sergio
Garcia bogeyed but didn't win another until the 13th, by which
time they were 4 down and well on their way to losing.
The only gem Crenshaw came up with was Steve Pate. At last,
apparently, someone found a partner for Woods. (And why should
that be so difficult?) Pate and Woods birdied the first four
holes against Harrington and Jimenez, saw their 3-up lead
dwindle to all square on the back, then eagled the par-5 14th
and won one up.
Crenshaw's strategy produced just a 2-2 split in the morning,
but when the afternoon pairings came out, the U.S. coach looked
like a mastermind because the setup couldn't have been more
favorable. His top players were back, rested and no doubt peeved
about being benched. They were also paired against the tiring
European marathon men--Lehman and Mickelson against Clarke and
Westwood, and Duval and Love against the hottest team, Garcia
and Parnevik. Those matches looked like a good opportunity to
pick up two points.
The four Americans dominated, but unlike Lehman and Mickelson,
Duval and Love couldn't finish off their opponents. Parnevik
holed a 50-yard shot from the rough for an unlikely par to halve
the 12th hole, while Duval and Love turned perfect drives into
scrambling pars and a bad loss on the par-5 14th. Love missed a
six-footer at the 17th hole that would've ended the match and,
at the 18th, missed a crucial 15-footer that allowed the
Europeans to steal a half point the Americans badly needed. "We
gave them an out, and they took it," Love said.
Crenshaw had his hot new pairing, Pate and Woods, against the
Scots, Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie, and they played a fierce
match, but Woods couldn't make any putts. The beginning of the
end came at the 14th, where Woods hit two tremendous shots to
leave himself an eight-footer for eagle. He missed, and the
relentless Monty made a clutch birdie for a halve. Montgomerie
holed a putt to win the next hole, Lawrie hit it stiff at 16,
and suddenly the point was Europe's.
The other match also looked winnable for the U.S. Jimenez was
paired with Jose Maria Olazabal, who had been playing poorly.
Crenshaw was expected to send out Jeff Maggert and Hal Sutton,
winners of two of three matches and clearly the best U.S. team,
but he decided to play a hunch. He benched Maggert in favor of
Leonard, even though Maggert had come through with two huge
strokes in the morning foursomes against Lawrie and Montgomerie.
Maggert had holed a lengthy birdie putt at the 17th to give his
team a one-up lead, after which he dashed across the green,
pumping his fist. Then at the 18th, after Sutton had driven
right down the middle, Maggert had staked a seven-iron to within
a foot to close out the match for the Americans.
Crenshaw's decision to bench Maggert was a curious one, but
Maggert was too much of a team player to argue. "I really believe
it takes a lot out of you to play five matches," he said. "I
thought maybe I held Hal back a little bit Friday afternoon in
best ball because I wasn't striking the ball that well. It was
Ben's decision. I would've played if he'd wanted me to, but I
wasn't disappointed that I didn't. Definitely not."
Crenshaw's hunch didn't pan out. Leonard was awful on the
greens, and the Americans trailed most of the match. Only
Sutton's heroics at the end, when he hit it close at 16 for
birdie and saved par at 18, salvaged a half point. The match was
typical of Crenshaw's luck and the Americans' basic problem.
"Other than Hal, it's hard to say we've had anybody who's really
been dominating," Maggert said. "Who are you going to put in?
Whoever plays just has to play better."
On Saturday, no American played well enough.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY SIMON BRUTY Woodwork Montgomerie recovered to win in his four-ball match.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK Benched A hero in the morning, Maggert sat in the afternoon.
COLOR PHOTO: GEORGE TIEDEMANN The long view Garcia and Parnevik were allowed to steal a halve.
DAY 2 Digest
MAGGERT-SUTTON (U.S.) def. LAWRIE-MONTGOMERIE One up
CLARKE-WESTWOOD (Eur.) def. FURYK-O'MEARA 3 and 2
PATE-WOODS (U.S.) def. HARRINGTON-JIMENEZ One up
GARCIA-PARNEVIK (Eur.) def. LEONARD-STEWART 3 and 2
SESSION: EUROPE 2 U.S. 2
TOTAL: EUROPE 8 U.S. 4
LEHMAN-MICKELSON (U.S.) def. CLARKE-WESTWOOD 2 and 1
DUVAL-LOVE (U.S.) GARCIA-PARNEVIK Halved
LEONARD-SUTTON (U.S.) JIMENEZ-OLAZABAL Halved
LAWRIE-MONTGOMERIE (Eur.) def. PATE-WOODS 2 and 1
SESSION: EUROPE 2 U.S. 2
TOTAL: EUROPE 10 U.S. 6
In Other Words
NBC's Johnny Miller got the ball rolling by immediately
second-guessing Crenshaw's decision to substitute Leonard for
Maggert as Sutton's partner in four-ball: "My hunch is that
Justin should go home and watch on television."
Then everyone jumped on the bandwagon. Al Tays of The Palm Beach
Post: "Crenshaw called the decision to bench Maggert from a
pairing that had gone 2-1 'a complete hunch.' That's the kind of
banking that led to the S&L crisis."
Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: "You don't throw Fred out there
without Ginger. You don't send Bethune out there without
Cookman. You don't suit up Johnson without Johnson."
Thomas Bonk of the Los Angeles Times was--well, we're not sure:
"The situation for the U.S. is, well, just what is it exactly?
Hopeless? Encouraging? Embarrassing? Familiar?"
Let's not get hasty, said Ian Broadley of the Glasgow Herald:
"If Europe is to win, history must be defied, for in the 15
events staged by the USGA at the Country Club, no one from this
continent has ever prevailed."
Do you believe in miracles? Joe Gordon of the Boston Herald knew
the Americans needed one: "Eighty-six years ago, right here at
the Country Club, the U.S. climbed aboard Francis Ouimet for a
golfing ride that had no end in sight. Unless something
miraculous happens tomorrow, the country's golf supremacy is
about to disappear faster than the millennium."
"It was Ben's decision," said Maggert. "I would've played if
he'd wanted me to, but I wasn't disappointed that I didn't."