Team USA Captain Hal Sutton found little to smile about Saturday at Oakland Hills Country Club. (Photo: Getty Images)
No laughing matter
Whatever glimmer of hope Team USA may have gained after an encouraging showing in the morning four-ball matches at Oakland Hills Country Club evaporated in another discouraging performance that followed in the afternoon foursomes.
Don Jozwiak, PGA.com Contributor
September 18, 2004
BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Team USA couldn't sustain the charge it mounted on Saturday morning, and Team Europe took full advantage during the afternoon foursomes matches. By winning three of the four points available Saturday afternoon, Captain Bernhard Langer's team takes an 11-5 lead into Sunday's singles matches, and needs only three singles victories to win the 35th Ryder Cup Matches and retain possession of the Cup.
Team USA Captain Hal Sutton saw his team's momentum stall before the afternoon foursomes matches even started. Sutton's team was stunned when a pair of poor short-game shots from Chad Campbell and Jim Furyk allowed Team Europe's rookie duo of Paul Casey and David Howell to win the 18th hole with a par. That handed a full point to Team Europe, and Team USA didn't recover from the blow.
The afternoon foursomes matches started just moments after the last four-ball match was finished, and Team USA's leadoff team of Chris DiMarco and Jay Haas looked rushed on the first tee. The duo double-bogeyed the first hole and were never a factor in their match against Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood. DiMarco and Haas couldn't recapture their alternate-shot magic from Friday afternoon, failing to win a single hole and twice needing multiple shots to escape a fairway bunker. Clarke and Westwood closed out the U.S. team on the 14th green, 5 and 4.
An encouraging sign for Team USA was the play of Phil Mickelson, who teamed with David Toms to beat Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Levet, 4 and 3. Mickelson struggled all day on Friday, but a morning of practice -- and a reunion with past Ryder Cup playing partner Toms -- gave the world's No. 4-ranked player a fresh start. Buoyed by the generous reception the fans gave him, and by the sharp putting of Toms, Mickelson was able to earn his first point of the Matches and stop an 0-for-9 streak in Ryder Cup Matches and Presidents Cup play.
Mickelson's Friday partner, Tiger Woods, was paired with Davis Love III against the Irish contingent of Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley. Like Friday afternoon, Woods started strong, leading his team to an early 2-up lead. But for a second straight day, Woods saw his team's lead slip away.
Sloppy play from the U.S. duo allowed Harrington and McGinley to win four of six holes with pars in the middle of the match. Team Europe closed out the match when McGinley hit his approach on No. 15 to 3 feet and Woods left a birdie putt well short, and the Irish duo finished off the match 4 and 3. This touched off a wild round of cheering and singing from a vocal group of Irish fans at Oakland Hills.
"I came in very flat after the morning four-balls," Harrington said. "After the first couple holes Paul said we should be playing against the course, not Tiger and Davis. And that got me motivated and we played well from then on."
The third match of Saturday afternoon saw Fred Funk and Jim Furyk go up against Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, who had earned a point for Team Europe on Friday. Donald and Garcia won the first hole and never trailed. Funk and Furyk grinded all day, fighting back from a 3-down deficit to force the match to the 18th hole, but Team Europe claimed a 1-up victory to finish the day's matches -- and put Team USA in the deepest hole in since the Ryder Cup Matches switched to their current format in 1979.