Ryder Cup finish will be unlike any other
NEWPORT, Wales – U.S. assistant captain Tom Lehman was driving back to Celtic Manor’s clubhouse Friday evening when his cart ran out of power on a steep hill.
The cart (or buggy, as they say over here) had to be pushed up the 100-yard slope by the cart behind it.
Nothing was going right for the United States late Saturday. When play was suspended because of darkness, the United States trailed in all six matches, setting the stage for a wild Ryder Cup Sunday. The United States started Saturday afternoon’s play with a 6-4 lead.
“We are in a very, very strong position,” European captain Colin Montgomerie said.
No matter the score, the Ryder Cup’s final day is almost always intriguing. The competition is usually close when the 12 singles matches begin. A large lead by one team presents the possibility of a dramatic comeback, a la Brookline in 1999.
Ryder Cup: Europe rallies back
Team Europe made a charge before Ryder Cup play was suspended on Saturday.
If nothing else, it’s the rare opportunity to watch the world’s best players go mano-a-mano for something besides another large paycheck.
This Sunday will be unprecedented, though. Two foursomes and four four-ball matches must be completed before the singles session begins. Play will resume at 7:45 a.m. local time (2:45 a.m. on the East Coast), and continue almost non-stop throughout the day.
“We are starting 15 minutes earlier ... to allow extra time to finish the matches,” Montgomerie said. “It’s still going to be very, very tight.”
It seems certain that Europe’s two-point deficit will be smaller when those six matches are completed. The Europeans are at least 2 up in four matches.
Luke Donald and Lee Westwood are 4 up on Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker through nine holes. Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy are 3 up on Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan through seven. McDowell hit his tee shot on the par-3 seventh to 6 feet, and McIlroy made the putt to win the hole.
Ian Poulter and Martin Kaymer are 2 up on Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler through four holes. Miguel Angel Jimenez’s last stroke Friday was an 8-foot birdie putt that gave himself and Peter Hanson a 2-up lead over Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton through six holes.
“We are just going to have to go back tonight, rest up, come out and fire at them tomorrow,” U.S. captain Corey Pavin said. “I’d say it wasn’t a bad thing that it got dark.”
Said Watson, “It seems like we always come out strong in the mornings.”
Unless something changes overnight, the United States will enter singles with its two best players struggling.
Mickelson is playing so poorly that he didn’t post a score on the first three holes Friday afternoon. A loss would make Mickelson 0-3-0 this week. Woods and Stricker, who won their first two matches, were 5 over through seven holes of alternate shot Saturday afternoon, mostly because of Woods’ mistakes.
They bogeyed No. 4 after Woods missed the green with his approach. He hit his second shot on the par-4 sixth into a lake fronting the green. Woods hit his tee shot on the par-3 seventh into a greenside bunker, resulting in a bogey.
The weather adds another element to this Sunday like no other. There is a 50 percent chance of rain starting at midnight. The forecast predicts rain until Sunday afternoon. The rain could present another obstacle, along with the Ryder Cup’s final-day pressure, that players must overcome, or it could push play into Monday.
Celtic Manor is still soggy from Friday’s rain, which caused a seven-hour delay. The Twenty Ten Course’s expensive drainage system struggled to handle the nearly 1.5 inches that fell Thursday evening and Friday. Play was delayed not because of the rain, but standing water throughout the course.
The Twenty Ten Course is located at the bottom of the Usk Valley, which makes drainage more difficult
“More than ($1.6 million) was spent on drainage during construction of the Twenty Ten course, but there comes a point following persistent, heavy rainfall when the ground becomes saturated,” the club said in a statement.
If play goes an extra day, the possibility arises of the oddest finish in Ryder Cup history. The captains have agreed no hole may be started after 6:37 p.m. local time – 6 minutes before sunset. Any match not completed will be declared a halve, no matter the margin.
“I can’t control the weather,” Montgomerie said. “If we have any delays at all tomorrow, it will not finish tomorrow.”
No matter when it occurs, the Ryder Cup’s final day will be unlike any seen before it.