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Day 2: Rookie enthusiam keeps momentum with U.S.A.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Experience must be overrated. That's the only way to explain what went on at Valhalla Golf Club on Saturday at the 37th Ryder Cup, where the rookies ruled.
Between the U.S. and Europe, the 10 rookies that teed it up in the foursomes and fourball sessions helped account for 4 ½ of the eight points up for grabs.
Europe, as a whole, narrowed the three-point deficit it started the day with down to a crucial two points, which means the Americans will take a 9-7 lead into Sunday's singles matches. It's just the second time in 13 years that the U.S. will begin the final day of a Ryder Cup with the lead. The other was at Oak Hill in 1995. The U.S. led 9-7, just like here at Valhalla, but came out on the losing end.
"We took some blows today," U.S. captain Paul Azinger said. "They played great, and we only lost one point today. We're happy about that. You could just tell by the pairings that it was going to be this kind of day. I felt like the afternoon, another roller coaster just like yesterday. The afternoon we could have lost 3 to 1, we could have won 3 to 1. Anything could have happened."
"We won't be thinking of history or the past," European captain Nick Faldo said. "Tomorrow is the only moment we've got, so that's what the guys have been living for and that's why they want to be here. And that's what we'll be playing for tomorrow."
Now let's get back to those rookies.
For the Europeans, little-known Englishman Oliver Wilson became a whole lot more famous after his play in the morning foursome session.
• Notes: Day-long updates
• Story: Euros narrow deficit
• Story: A call to fans
• Story: Stage set for thrills
Wilson teamed up with Henrik Stenson to face seemingly overwhelming favorites in Phil Mickelson and rookie Anthony Kim.
It looked like it would be ugly early for Stenson and Wilson -- the only European who didn't tee it up on Friday -- as Mickelson and Kim jumped out to a 4-up lead through just six holes. The match was so lopsided that, at one point, a European commentator suggested that Wilson and Stenson were "lambs to the slaughter."
It's a good thing the European players didn't think that way.
A rally, coupled with erratic play by Mickelson and Kim, helped Wilson and Stenson to what could arguably be the most unlikely 2-and-1 win in Ryder Cup history.
"I've just been itching to play," said Wilson, who put his stamp on these matches when he holed a 25-footer for birdie at No. 17 that eventually closed the match. "Obviously excited to get out there this morning. I felt like me and Henrik were a good pairing. We spoke about it yesterday, so I was ecstatic to get out there. We didn't get off to the best of starts, but it was a lot of fun. The first tee shot was a lot of fun. And just got off to a bad start, kept pegging away, and fortunately managed to get ourselves back in the match and finish nicely."
To read the remainder of this story, click here.
|SHOT OF THE DAY|
|QUOTE OF THE DAY|
FROM MEN TO BOYS
There is just something about the Ryder Cup that can make even the most stoic of golfers act like he just won the Little League World Series. And 2008 is no exception.
After Boo Weekley and J.B. Holmes defeated Lee Westwood and Soren Hansen in the afternoon to giveTeam USA another crucial point, team spirit was flowing for the rest of 'Zinger's boys.
So when Jim Furyk and partner Kenny Perry stepped onto the 17th green, down 1 to Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell, they knew they had to halve the hole in order to extend the match and give themselves a chance to win.
Furyk drained his 20-foot putt to halve the hole and move onto No. 18. It wasn't the putt, however, that was significant; it was the celebration that followed.
The usually calm-and-collected Furyk pumped his fist like Tiger Woods on Sunday afternoon at the Masters and then channeled his excitement into a hop-skip-and-jump of a dance while the crowd roared for Team U.S.A.
Unfortunately for Furyk and Perry, the celebration ended on the 18th hole when Poulter's short putt for birdie won the Europeans the match, 1 up. But who's to say funky Furyk and his chicken dance won't be back on Sunday?
|What they said|
RYDER CUP STAPLES SIT OUT AFTERNOON FOR BOTH TEAMS
Justin Leonard's undefeated record through the first three matches of the Ryder Cup wasn't enough to convince U.S. captain Paul Azinger to play him during Saturday's afternoon four-ball.
Leonard and Hunter Mahan rolled to a 3-0-0 record through the first three rounds, and Azinger sent Mahan back out for the afternoon matches. Mahan joined Phil Mickelson as the only American players to play in each of the first four matches.
Leonard felt he could have gone another 18 holes but respected Azinger's decision.
"I told 'Zinger, you know, I felt like I had some more in the tank," Leonard said. "I wasn't sure how much. And I think he wants me to be ready for tomorrow. ... I'm going to use this rest to my advantage."
Leonard wasn't the only red-hot player who took the afternoon off. Europe's Justin Rose asked captain Nick Faldo if he could sit out the four-ball matches even though he and Ian Poulter had gone 2-0-1 through three matches.
"I really felt like it was best for the team, should I sit out a bit," Rose said. "I've got a bit of a sore wrist and a few little things that you just want to just take care of, no big deal."
Valhalla marked the first time under the current Ryder Cup format that Europe had just one player compete in every session. -- The Associated Press
|Sunday singles matches|
THREE THINGS TO WATCH SUNDAY
1. How folks handle the pressure. Every shot of every match will be under an intense microscope, even more intense then the pressure-packed situations we saw on Saturday. The big difference Sunday? If you're going to win a point, you're going to have to do it on your own. There won't be anyone there to pick you up.
2. The early matches, particularly the first. U.S. Captain Paul Azinger top-loaded his lineup on Sunday, presumably in an effort to put the Cup out of reach as early as possible. The match of the day may very well be the opener, when a rested Anthony Kim, who sat out on Saturday afternoon, takes on Sergio Garcia, who always seems to shine under the spotlight of the Ryder Cup.
3. The late matches. In contrast to Azinger's strategy, Faldo has put two of his biggest guns near the bottom of his lineup, sending Lee Westwood out in the penultimate match against Ben Curtis and putting Ian Poulter in the match preceding that against Steve Stricker. If the Americans don't put it away early, the early evening could be thrilling.