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Down But Not Nearly Out

36th Ryder Cup MatchesThe first day of the 36th Ryder Cup, at least from an American vantage point, was like getting your hair cut by a barber with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
He takes off a little here; takes off a little there; has to measure the left side with the right side; the front with the back; everything has to be perfect. He just keeps trimming. And in the end, before he hands you the mirror, youre not sure if youre going to look Hollywood or homeless.
Sergio Garcia
The Europeans have the lead and the momentum, but the Americans still have a chance.
Watching the matches play out Friday at The K Club, you had no idea how the score would take its final shape.
Would the U.S. be down five points or possibly up one by days end?
In the end, the deficit was just two ' and the Americans should be counting their blessings (as should anyone who actually wants to view a competitive contest over the weekend).
This easily could have been a blowout early, much like when the Yanks trailed 6 - 1 after the first two sessions two years ago.
The Americans were fortunate, very fortunate ' Geoff Ogilvy 2006 U.S. Open fortunate ' that they still have a chance to win this thing.
  • For one, Irelands own Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley lost a 2-up lead with three holes to play to hand the U.S. a half-point in the afternoon foursomes.
  • For another, Colin Montgomerie played rather pedestrian and didnt make his usual allotment of 25-footers. Had he made just a few more putts in the morning ' like he normally does in this competition ' we might have been looking at a genuine horror film: Oakland Hills: The Sequel.
  • Rookie J.J. Henry and Stewart Cink had to rally from 3-down after 10 holes in the morning fourballs just to get a half.
  • David Howell lipped out an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole that would have won his afternoon match outright. Instead, he and Henrik Stenson settled for a half, thus making the score a little more respectable, and the disadvantage a little more manageable for the U.S.
  • We wont even go into full disclosure on how poorly Chris DiMarco played down the stretch in his foursomes match with Phil Mickelson. The guy who is usually a Match Play Mad Dog, looked out of sorts, more like Christopher Lloyd from Taxi than Robert De Niro from Taxi Driver' over the final few holes.
  • And then there was Furyk, who put Woods in more compromising situations than Bill Clinton in their alternate-shot match. Not only did he cost the Power Duo at least a tie with his butcher job on the first and 18th holes, he gave Sergio Garcia another team victory over Woods.
    No American wants to lose to Garcia, especially Woods. Whether or not Garcia talked a little smack about Tiger a few weeks ago, Tiger thinks he did, and that makes it fact in his mind. Make no mistake about it; these two are not friends, not even close. In fact, Id venture to say that most of the Americans, at least those with Cup experience, think of Sergio as a petulant child ' not that they have been able to administer many spankings to him in this competition.
    Things looked great early on for the U.S in this 36th edition. Woods and Furyk took down Montgomerie and Harrington, avoiding a repeat of 04, when Monty and Paddy took out Tiger and Phil to set a devastating tone.
    Maybe this would be a different Ryder Cup. After all, the U.S. was the underdog this time. And it was the American side which looked more team-oriented. They had the pre-tournament camaraderie, while the Europeans were dealing with some internal strife (criticism of captain Ian Woosnam for having the social skills of a hermit; Darren Clarkes reported distaste of Montgomerie, relating to the alleged cheating incident in Jakarta a year ago; Monty voicing his displeasure over Olazabal skipping the final qualifying event).
    Maybe the U.S. would finally make a bevy of monster birdie putts. Maybe the U.S. would take the early lead. Maybe the U.S. could actually win this thing.
    No. No. Maybe.
    With three sessions and two days still remaining, Europe once again has the lead and the momentum ' getting both without having to play spectacularly well.
    But the U.S. still has a chance. And given the way things went a couple of years ago, and given the way things could have gone this Friday, thats something about which to be very encouraged.
    Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
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  • Scoring - 36th Ryder Cup
  • Full Coverage - 36th Ryder Cup Matches