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

Not the start the U.S. was looking for

Sunday, September 24, 2006 8:40 AM

STRAFFAN, Ireland (third Green) -- "Go, Cinkie!" Stewart Cink turned to look at the bass voice who shouted encouragement to him as he walked down the second fairway. It was Michael Jordan. What a role reversal. Cink was playing for Georgia Tech when Jordan was becoming the world's greatest athlete. Now, Jordan was rooting him on. And it was working. Cink was outside Sergio Garcia on the first but won the hole when he made his birdie and Garcia missed.

I walked with Jordan for a minute or two and asked him if there was a U.S. comeback in the offing. He said, "Brookline, baby. Brookline," referring to the Americans' epic rally from the same 10-6 deficit they had this morning. I think Jordan and I connected in some small way. There was a certain look in his eye as security ordered me to the other side of the ropes. It's hard to explain.

Anyway, this wasn't the start the U.S. hoped for. Instead of a sea of red on the board, Europe took the early lead in three of the opening four matches. But then the Yanks fought back. Tiger Woods won the second to square his match with Robert Karlsson, who let Woods off the mat by missing a short birdie putt at 3. Tiger went on to birdie 4 and 5 to put a red flag on the board.

Still, to come back from a deficit this big, nearly everything has to break perfectly. And so far it hasn't. When I came back to file this report, the Euros led in four matches, the U.S. in three, with three others tied. My pants (with mud) and my mind (with memories of watching this spectacle in person) are equally and indelibly stained.

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