Ryder Cup Logo Ryder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland

Everything's coming up aces for the European team

Saturday, September 23, 2006 3:53 PM

STRAFFAN, Ireland -- Everything you need to know about the afternoon foursomes could be found at the 14th hole. In the first match, Phil Mickelson's tee shot at the 213-yard par-3 was airborne as he yelled, "C'mon, honey, be right!" Honey wasn't listening. The shot landed a good 40 feet short of the hole.

A few minutes later, Paul Casey said nothing as his tee shot at the same hole flew toward the green. It didn't stop until it hit the bottom of the hole. That one shot was the fifth and sixth holes-in-one in Ryder Cup history. Casey's ace clinched a 5-and-4 win for himself and David Howell over Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson, technically meaning the Euros conceded a 1 to the Americans. You know things aren't going well when your team's best shot all week is one it didn't even hit.

This seems to happen every year, and each year you wonder how it gets to this point. How do the top three players in the world combine to go 0-2 in this morning's fourballs? If you want to talk about the quirkiness of alternate-shot play, that's one thing. But fourballs is essentially each guy playing his own ball. And Woods and Furyk were the two hottest players in the world coming in. But apparently something happens when American players start dressing alike, and that something's not good. Maybe Seinfeld was right when he said it's all about the uniforms.

I was standing behind Jim Furyk this morning after he teed off at 10. He looked behind him toward a giant banner featuring a picture of Ian Woosnam and this quote: "For me there can be no prouder moment in my sporting career than this week leading Europe in the greatest team event in the world." I had the feeling Furyk was thinking, "This guy's no bigger than my golf bag. How is he doing this to us?"

On the other side, you wonder what else Tom Lehman could've done? He's drawn rave reviews on his leadership from American players. He somehow convinced Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to rearrange their schedules to join the entire team on a two-day reconnaissance mission here last month. He even brought Tex Mex over on the team plane. What he didn't anticipate was his team folding like a soft taco once play began.

Maybe Lehman has the Europeans right where he wants them. He played a significant role when the U.S. rallied from the same 10-6 deficit they face going into Sunday singles this year. In fact, Lehman was the first man out on that Sunday at Brookline when Ben Crenshaw stacked his best players at the top of the lineup to try to close the gap as quickly as possible. Lehman waxed Lee Westwood that day, 3 and 2, and the comeback was on. Sunday, Captain Tom will send out Toms (Montgomerie), Cink (Garcia), Furyk (Casey), and Woods (Karlsson) in the first four matches and ask them to even the score.

Will Lehman's lineup card be right? The U.S. can only hope his depth perception is better than Mickelson's and that Europe doesn't have another ace up its sleeve.

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