On Sunday in Ireland, these shots were the tops
Sunday at the Ryder Cup witnessed a third straight day of eye-popping shots, from gut-check putts to the second ace in two days on the 14th hole. T.J. Auclair identifies the best and most important from closing day at the K Club.
By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor
September 24, 2006
STRAFFAN, Ireland -- A quick look at the most critical shots struck on the final day of the 2006 Ryder Cup:
5. Hole No. 10, Darren Clarke:
There wasn't a soul at the K Club -- or in the world of golf, for that matter -- not pulling for Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke this week. Clarke's wife, Heather, passed away on Aug. 13 after losing a four-year battle with cancer. In light of that, Clarke's presence at the Ryder Cup was in question until Captain Ian Woosnam made him a wild card pick.
Clarke more than contributed, collecting a full three points and going a 3-0-0 in these matches. Included in that was his first-ever win in singles, a 3 & 2 rout of U.S. rookie Zach Johnson.
The turning point in that match came at the 10th hole. Already 2-up, Clarke knocked in a curling 40-footer for birdie to go 3-up and he never looked back.
4. Hole Nos. 12, 13 and 15, Stewart Cink:
U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Lehman made it clear that his intention for the singles matches was to put his team in a position to put a lot of red on the scoreboard early. Stewart Cink, one of Lehman's captain's picks, wasted no time in trying to urge his team on by downing the seemingly unstoppable Sergio Garcia, 4 & 3.
If Garcia is Europe's Superman, Cink was most definitely his kryptonite.
The match was never close, as Cink was an amazing 5-up after just seven holes (6-under through seven holes). However, he ended the match in impressive fashion. Just after Garcia won the 11th hole to close his deficit to 3-down, Cink drained a 50-foot bomb for birdie at No. 12 to go back to 4-up.
At No. 13, Cink rolled home a twisting 30-footer for birdie. To his credit, Garcia halved the hole by making an 18-footer of his own.
Finally at No. 15, after watching Garcia chip in from the fringe, Cink answered by pouring in a 20-foot putt to match Garcia's birdie and end the match.
3. Hole No. 17, Luke Donald:
Donald achieved sweet redemption by defeating Chad Campbell, 2 & 1, in their singles tilt Sunday. The win was especially nice for Donald, as he was defeated in singles by Campbell in 2004 at Oakland Hills.
What made the victory all the more special was the fact that the four-footer the 28-year-old Englishman knocked in at No. 17 allowed the European team to reach 14 points -- the magic number, which assured they would retain the Ryder Cup.
2. Hole No. 14, Scott Verplank:
With the outcome of the Ryder Cup already decided, Scott Verplank -- also a captain's pick -- was still involved in his match with Padraig Harrington.
Standing on the 14th tee, a 213-yard par 3, with a 3-up advantage, Verplank struck a sensational iron shot that landed eight feet short of the cup, rolled up and dropped in for the second ace at 14 in as many days.
That put Verplank 4-up and he closed out the match when both players parred No. 15.
Verplank's was just the sixth hole-in-one in Ryder Cup history and the first-ever by an American.
1. Hole No. 15, Henrik Stenson:
When does a seven-foot par putt edge out a hole-in-one for shot of the day? Easy, when that putt wins the Ryder Cup.
Henrik Stenson, a Swede playing in his first Ryder Cup, holed his seven-footer for par at the 15th hole to defeat Vaughn Taylor, 4 & 3. Though the Europeans needed just 14 points to retain the Cup and had reached that mark moments earlier, Stenson's full-point gave the Euros 15 points and ensured an outright win -- a half-point more than what they needed for the victory.
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