Seeing into Sunday


LOUISVILLE, Ky. ' Golf is hard. Arithmetic is easier. So here are the cold hard numbers: With 12 Sunday singles matches remaining in the 37th Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club the U.S. leads Europe, 9-7.
Europe began the day three behind the Americans. Now it trails by two. Were still, said Swede Henrik Stenson using a Yanks idiom, in the ballgame.
To wrest the Cup away from the defending champions the U.S. must total at least five and a half points on the final day. If the matches end in a 14-14 tie, the Europeans retain the Cup.
Its a bumpy road at times, isnt it, to get a victory, European captain Nick Faldo said Saturday.
To be sure, its even rougher to separate the wheat from the Ryder Cup chaff. But if anybody had asked me Saturday, Id have told them that:
  • The Americans will win Sunday. Final score: 15-13.
  • The Man of the Match (thats Ryder Cup speak for MVP) will be American Justin Leonard, providing he wins his Sunday singles assignment. Leonard has won 2 out of a possible three points and has putted better than anybody on either side. If you want to second-guess American captain Paul Azinger, take him to task for holding Leonard out of the Saturday afternoon fourballs. Ill probably be better-off, better served tomorrow with my rest, Leonard said, bailing out his captain. If Leonard doesnt turn out to be Man of the Match, Ian Poulter should get a long look.
  • Nick Faldo is a mad genius. He sits his two best point-getters ' Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood ' Saturday morning and his B squad goes out and thumps the Americans 2 to 1 to close Europes deficit by mid-day to 7-5. Its no secret that Faldo is not popular among his own generation of top European players. He was never in it for the congeniality. But Faldo and his detractors alike always knew the Ryder Cup was too important to the European players to let a dislike for the captain ' real or imagined ' get in the way of the common and burning desire to take down the Americans.
  • The British press thinks Faldo is mad but not a genius. Kentucky Fried Nick, wailed one tabloid headline across the pond Saturday morning after the Yanks had raced to their three-point first day lead. The Fleet St. boys were especially hard on Faldo in the matter of Garcia and Westwood. Only later was it revealed that Garcia had been on antibiotics last week and was, in Faldos words, shot after a winless Friday. Westwood, who Friday tied Arnold Palmers Ryder Cup record of 12 consecutive matches without a loss, said he wanted to play Saturday morning but he admitted he was suffering from blisters. Hey, why let the facts gets in the way of a good story on a slow news day?
  • British rookie Oliver Wilsons long, big-breaking birdie putt on the 17th hole that gutted the American duo of Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim, 2 and 1, in Saturdays foursomes was the key stroke of the day (and were not talking typing here). The Americans had built a 4-up lead after just six holes and the end was looking near. It was nice to hole that, said the soft-spoken Wilson.
  • Wilsons bomb hurt. But if the Americans end up losing this turkey-shoot by darkness Sunday, they should point first to the two half-points they gave away Friday when nobody from Kentucky was able to find dry land off the tee on the 18th hole. First, Kenny Perrys rinsed tee ball on the final hole in the morning allowed Garcia and Westwood to escape with a half. Similarly, J.B. Holmes wet drive on 18 Friday afternoon (after fourballs partner Boo Weekley had already dunked his first shot) allowed Westwood and Soren Hansen to sprint to the clubhouse with another giveaway half point.
  • Hansen gets no respect. First the European equipment managers misspelled his last name on his official Ryder Cup golf bag. And as for his first name, well, lets put it this way: No player with an o that has a line through it has ever won a major. In fact, I bet most people just type it without the line.
  • You could have made a lot of money off me at the beginning of the week if you had bet that only three players would play in all five matches and that those three players would be Poulter, Mahan and Mickelson.
  • You could have made even more money off me if you had bet that Westwood, Garcia and Padraig Harrington, between them, would go into Sundays singles each without having won a match and that the difference in score between the two teams would be just two points. Im struggling a bit with my alignment, Harrington said after losing his Saturday foursomes match and grabbing some bench in the afternoon. This, for Harrington, after going 0-4-1 in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland at the 2006 Ryder Cup.
  • Those guys carrying around the life-sized cardboard cut-out of a be-kilted Colin Montgomerie need to a.) Get a life and b.) Move on.Monty didnt make the team, guys.
  • The reason all four American pairings lost the par-5 seventh hole during Saturday morning pairings was simple: Its an unlucky number.
  • Ive never seen so few short putts missed in a Ryder Cup.
  • There was a rumor floating around that George 41 Bush gave Boo Weekley a man-hug Saturday afternoon. Great country, isnt it?
  • The best description of Ryder Cup play I have heard all week came from broadcaster Renton Laidlaw, a Scotsman, in his usual economy of words. Its gladiatorial, he said.
  • The peoples choice at Valhalla this week ' its not even close ' is Boo Weekley. All the fans, Boo drawled, are great.
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    Related Links:
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup