Europe dominates U.S. on final day
SUTTON COLDFIELD, England -- The underdogs were the best from top to bottom.
|34th Ryder Cup records|
Ripping a page out of the American playbook, Europe won early and won big with its best players. And that inspired the rest of a no-name cast to snatch the Ryder Cup away from Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and a heavily favored U.S. squad.
''It was a huge risk,'' Colin Montgomerie said. ''And it worked very, very well.''
Europe beat the Americans at their own game Sunday, winning the singles matches for only the sixth time in history to capture the most precious golf prize on the continent.
''Hopefully, that will say to the Americans we can play singles, and we can compete with them and also beat them,'' Montgomerie said. ''It was a superb day for European golf.''
The final score was 15½-12½, the largest margin by either side since Europe scored 16½ points in 1985, the first time the Ryder Cup was played at The Belfry. Sam Torrance was the star that day, making the clinching putt.
He was equally important as the European captain.
''He took a hell of a gamble by front-loading his team like he did,'' U.S. captain Curtis Strange said. ''Because if they don't do well, in my mind it's over.''
No one was more magnificent than Monty.
He led the charge by beating Scott Hoch in the opening match and whipped the partisan crowd into a frenzy early. Montgomerie was unbeaten at The Belfry, never trailing in any of the 82 holes he played this week.
Phillip Price helped bring up the rear.
A timid Welshman who is ranked No. 119 in the world, Price scored a surprisingly easy victory over Mickelson that deflated any American hopes of a comeback.
''Out of the shadows come heroes,'' Torrance said. ''And that's where Paul McGinley and Phillip Price came.''
Not many have heard of these guys before, but the Americans sure won't forget them.
''We don't give Sam's team enough credit because they can really play,'' Strange said.
Some of the blame was directed at Strange for keeping his best two players -- Mickelson and Woods -- at the bottom of the lineup, keeping them from producing points to stop European momentum.
Woods wound up playing a meaningless match, and he conceded a 4-foot par putt to Jesper Parnevik to lose the hole and halve the match.
''I wish it would have come down to our match, but unfortunately it didn't,'' Woods said.
Strange said Woods had a fever and was "under the weather" during the match, but that it probably didn't affect the outcome.
"I don't know what it was," Strange said. "He felt all right to play, but he felt like it broke on the course."
It was over quickly for the Americans.
Europe led in the first six matches, and it took 1 hour, 21 minutes for a U.S. lead to be posted on the leaderboard. By then, the roars could be heard from all corners of The Belfry, sounding like a stampede closing in on the Americans.
''You hear the crowd roaring, and it puts more pressure on you,'' Mickelson said. ''You know your team isn't doing well.''
They know the feeling.
Three years ago at Brookline, a desperate U.S. team trailed 10-6 going into the last day and put its best players at the front of the lineup. They won the first six matches, fired up the fans and staged the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history.
What made Torrance's tactic so risky is that he didn't need a comeback. Still, he sent out first the only seven players who had won matches during the first two days, putting the Ryder Cup in their hands.
''This had nothing to do with me,'' Torrance said. ''I led them to the water, and they drank copiously.''
More than 30,000 fans stuck around The Belfry afterward, singing and chanting in the dark, not ready to leave what felt like a magic kingdom.
The European players held nothing back.
Love was upset, and he and Fulke decided to halve their match.
''It's hard not to celebrate,'' Love said. ''It just wasn't the way to finish a match.''
The rest of the Europeans raced across the 18th green, and tossed McGinley into the lake. He emerged with an Irish flag and a smile that won't fade any time soon.
''Our top guns went out at the start, but it was unlikely that the first six matches would all be won,'' McGinley said. ''Phillip Price and I talked about it at breakfast. One of us was going to be a hero. One of us is going to win this.''
The Ryder Cup was delayed one year by the terrorist attacks.
Both teams had players that otherwise wouldn't have qualified because their games had deteriorated in the last 12 months.
The Ryder Cup is always a nail-biter, and this was no exception.
David Toms made an 80-foot birdie putt after electing to hit off a brick path on No. 5, then made three clutch putts to rally for a 1-up victory over Garcia.
David Duval showed tremendous grit by halving his match with Darren Clarke. He matched birdies by Clarke on the 13th, 15th and 17th holes to keep from falling behind, then earned a half-point by making a 10-foot par putt on the 18th.
They were the only two Americans who earned points in the first six matches, and Scott Verplank -- the first Ryder Cup rookie to be a captain's pick -- won his match.
It all came down to Europe's four rookies, and they delivered.
Fasth earned a crucial half-point that could have been more if not for Azinger holing a bunker shot on the 18th to keep alive slim U.S. hopes.
''I asked my caddie before I hit it, 'I need to hole this, don't I?' He didn't even answer me,'' Azinger said. ''I had to hole it.''
McGinley was 2-down to Jim Furyk before catching him on the 17th hole. After Furyk nearly holed out from the same bunker Azinger was in, McGinley's par putt was true.
The Americans still lead the overall series 24-8-2, but Europe has walked away with the gold trophy after six of the last nine meetings.
''This stings,'' Love said. ''We've been waiting three years to win it again. It's hard to imagine we don't have it.''
Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press
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