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David Toms' expression summed up the morning session for Team USA. (Photo: Ted Pio Roda,
David Toms' expression summed up the morning session for Team USA. (Photo: Ted Pio Roda,

Nightmare morning for Team USA

On paper, Team USA looked like a solid favorite at the 35th Ryder Cup Matches. But the competition is played on the course, and early on Friday Team Europe was clearly the better side.

Don Jozwiak, Contributor
September 17, 2004

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- 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 Friday morning matches. Still, Team USA now faces a large deficit to overcome -- exactly the scenario U.S. Captain Hal Sutton had hoped to avoid.

Sutton sent his best two players -- Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson -- out as a team for the first time as the first pairing for Team USA against Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie. 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,
5 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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