2004: Ryder Cup - Irish stage raucous improv

Bloomfield Township, Mich.

The Ryder Cup won’t visit Ireland for another two years, when it ventures to The K Club in Straffan. But as a long Saturday faded to black at Oakland Hills and Irish compatriots Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley closed out Tiger Woods and Davis Love on the 15th green of their foursomes match, one could have mistaken suburban Detroit for downtown Dublin.

The Europeans’ victory touched off an emerald celebration, with McGinley skipping across the green and Irish supporters draped in their country’s colors breaking into a hearty rendition of “The Fields of Athenry,” a song taat echoes through the stands at rugby games back home.

“That scene around the 15th green when we finished, with all the Irish there, was something I’ll always remember,” said McGinley. “It had a buzz about it that was very emotional. Brilliant.”

For Europe, the afternoon foursome session had its own deafening buzz. After a dismal opening day, U.S. captain Hal Sutton and his players had a goal for Saturday’s two sessions: Gain 5 of 8 points and pull themselves back into the 35th Ryder Cup. Though the United States got halfway to its goal in the morning, Europe built on a stirring four-ball victory by rookies Paul Casey and David Howell by dominating the afternoon foursomes, winning three of four matches to widen its advantage to 11-5. Never before had Europe enjoyed such a sizable lead heading into singles.

Sutton could have opted to play foursomes in the morning sessions and four-ball in the afternoon, but elected to play foursomes last because he thought the format would better suit the Americans. The plan was to end each long day with momentum. That hardly was the case.

Only a 4-and-3 victory by Phil Mickelson and David Toms over Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Levet – Mickelson’s first victory after a pair of Day 1 losses with Woods – kept the Americans from being shut out.

In two foursomes sessions, Europe won 6 of 8 points, and twice upended world No. 2 Woods, who paired with Mickelson and Love. Woods slipped to 1-3, ensuring he would finish his fourth Ryder Cup without ever boasting a winning record in the matches.

“My view is, that after 18 holes, at this level of golf, it’s like a sprint,” said McGinley. “And anybody can be beaten over 18 holes. . . . To a large extent I don’t think it’s because Tiger played badly. I think a lot of people raise their games playing Tiger.”

Said Sutton of his team’s lack of success in foursomes: “I attribute the whole deficit to better putting by the Europeans. You know, we missed a lot of fairways at inopportune times. They have just outplayed the Americans so far. There’s really no other way to put it."

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