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Chris DiMarco was one of the few Americas who found a reason to be pumped Friday afternoon. (Photo: Getty Images)
Chris DiMarco was one of the few Americas who found a reason to be pumped Friday afternoon. (Photo: Getty Images)

Frightful first day for Team USA

After losing 3 1/2 of a possible 4 points in four-balls, Team USA managed just 1 point in foursomes, and finished the first day of the 35th Ryder Cup Matches trailing Team Europe 6 1/2-1 1/2 at Oakland Hills Country Club.

Don Jozwiak, Contributor
September 17, 2004

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- There was no place to go but up for Team USA after a dismal Friday morning showing at the 35th Ryder Cup Matches. But Captain Hal Sutton's team still finds itself looking up at Team Europe after the day's foursome matches, trailing 6 1/2 to 1 1/2 at Oakland Hills Country Club.

Never before had Team USA trailed by so many points after the first day of play in the Ryder Cup Matches.

Chris DiMarco and Jay Haas sparked the crowd and their teammates by winning the first full point for Team USA. DiMarco's emotional play may have made him team MVP for Friday, as he energized the pro-USA galleries -- which hadn't been given much to cheer about in the morning matches. DiMarco and Haas closed out Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Levet 3-and-2 on the strength of a Haas 9-iron that finished 2 feet from the cup on No. 16.

"I just said, the hell with it, go with what you've got," Haas said after the match. "I just happened to pull one off at the right time."

Team Europe answered with a victory by its team of the day -- Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington -- in the second afternoon foursomes match. Montgomerie and Harrington continued to put on a putting clinic on the slippery slopes of Oakland Hills, beating Ryder Cup rookie Fred Funk and Davis Love III 4-and-2. Love had the toughest day of any Team USA player, winning just two of the 30 holes that he played and losing two points.

"We've very few days in Ryder Cup play that I have personally enjoyed as much (as Friday)," Montgomerie said. "We know that, as a team, we've been here before. It's a long way to go. We know that if we can have a good day like that today, I'm sure the U.S. team can do the same tomorrow. So we have to be our guard."

The much-anticipated pairing of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson looked as if it would make good on its promise in the afternoon, jumping out to a 3-up lead over Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood after four holes. But the Europeans reversed the momentum and took a 1-up lead on No. 11. The two teams then halved the next five holes before Team Europe made a rare mistake. Clarke's tee shot found the left bunker on the par-3 17th, and Westwood couldn't get out with his first attempt. A conceded par squared the match as it went to 18.

But Team USA's wildness off the tee finally cost it dearly. Mickelson's drive was pushed 40 yards left of the fairway, finishing next to fence on the out of bounds line. Woods had no choice but to declare the ball unplayable and take a drop -- and a penalty stroke -- before advancing the ball down the fairway. It was too much to overcome, and Clarke and Westwood posted a 1-up victory, keeping Mickelson and Woods winless as a partnership.

In the final match of the day, Ryder Cup rookie Kenny Perry and Stewart Cink saw several key putts lip out. Despite crisp play from Europe's Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, Cink and Perry fought to extend the match as long as they could. But Garcia and Donald never trailed, and they eventually closed out the match on the 17th green, winning 2 and 1.

It took a 7-foot par putt from a rookie for Team USA to earn its only half-point of the morning four-ball play at the 35th Ryder Cup Matches. Without Chris Riley's clutch putt, Team Europe would have completed a staggering sweep of the morning matches. Still, Team USA now faces a large deficit to overcome -- exactly the scenario U.S. Captain Hal Sutton hoped to avoid.

Sutton sent his best two players -- Woods and Mickelson -- out as a team for the first time as the first pairing for Team USA against Padraig Harrington. The European duo combined for seven birdies over 17 holes and won, 2-and-1. They had a chance to end the match on No. 16, but Mickelson made a clutch 15-foot putt to extend the match. Woods had three birdies over the first five holes, then was largely a non-factor for the rest of the match.

Montgomerie and Harrington each holed lengthly birdie putts at key moments to steal the momentum in the match. "Playing the other team's two best players on their soil, making birdie on the first four holes was a necessity," Montgomerie said.

"Team Europe had a great morning," Mickelson said immediately following the match. "We need to come back and do the same. This is only one match."

The first match to end was the second to start. Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jimenez dominated the U.S. team of Chad Campbell and Davis Love III, winning 5-and-4. Love accounted for the only birdie of the match for Team USA, and the duo didn't win a single hole. The match was over after 14 holes, leaving Clarke and Jimenez plenty of time to enjoy victory cigars.

"We both got off to a good start," Clarke said. "We made a couple of putts, and momentum is huge in the Ryder Cup. We managed to grab it early and hang onto it."

Team USA's best chance for a point in the morning four-ball matches came in the third match -- the only match to make it to the 18th green. Stewart Cink and Chris Riley played a very even match with Europe's Luke Donald and Paul McGinley. Cink evened the match with a birdie on No. 15, but Team USA faltered on 18. Cink and Riley each missed the green from the fairway, while Donald's approach shot rolled down off the back fringe to within 10 feet. His par putt was conceded

In the final match, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood beat Jim Furyk and David Toms handily, 4 and 3. Garcia and Westwood are 4-1 as a Ryder Cup pairing over the last two Matches, and they didn't disappoint on Friday morning. They combined to birdie three of the first four holes, while Furyk and Toms did not play well on the front nine. Furyk's birdie on 14 gave the team a boost, but it was too little, too late.

"When you don't play great on a U.S. Open-type course setup, you're going to get beat," Toms said.

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