Friday, 19 March 2010

Europe have extended their lead at The 2006 Ryder Cup to three points after toppling the USA’s highest ranked partnerships in the Saturday morning Fourballs. Sergio Garcia and José Maria Olazábal defeated Chris DiMarco and Phil Mickelson 3 & 2, before Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood disposed of Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods by the same scoreline to leave the home side leading 7 ½ to 4 ½.

Europe got off to a flying start and were up in three out of the four of the morning matches as the players moved through the turn, but the USA came back into the reckoning and almost halved the session. They were denied a share of the points by Paul Casey, who holed a gutsy four foot birdie putt on the 18th to secured a precious half point against Stewart Cink and JJ Henry.

The Americans had repeated their first day comeback against Casey and Robert Karlsson on the back nine of the Palmer Course, with Henry turning the match on its head with a brilliant eagle three on the 16th and then a birdie on the 17th to put the USA one up with one to play.

Casey refused to be beaten though and he pounced to capitalise on Henry’s three putt on the par five last to hole out from four feet for birdie and square the match, much to the delight of Europe’s captain, Ian Woosnam.

“That was a very important half for us,” said the Welshman. “We have won the morning 2 ½ to 1 ½ and it takes us that bit closer to the target of 14 ½. We have some different partnerships out in the Foursomes this afternoon so we will see how that goes, but the boys have been tremendous so far.”

Garcia and Olazábal brought the first point home from the morning matches, lighting up the rain-soaked K Club with a marvellous 3 & 2 win over DiMarco and Mickelson. Garcia continued his majestic first day form with a wonderful approach from the rough on the third hole to eight feet, from where he holed out put Europe one up and set the tone for the match.

The Spanish pair never looked back from there, with Olazábal then holing from 15 feet for birdie on the eighth to put Europe two up, before Garcia did it again, nailing his 184 yard approach at the ninth to five feet to surge further ahead of a bewildered looking American partnership.

And so it continued on the tenth as Olazábal holed from outside the Americans to pile the pressure on DiMarco, who pulled his birdie effort left to allow Europe a four hole advantage with eight to play.

The USA prolonged the inevitable with Mickelson’s first birdie of the day on the par three 14th, but, after halving the 15th the USA went dormie three down and Garcia closed the match out in typical style, splashing out of the greenside bunker on the 16th to leave his ball just a foot from the cup and force a concession from the US pair.

The roars of the home crowd celebrating the Spanish success had only just abated when Clarke rounded off a marvellous personal performance to finish off Furyk and Woods and send the Irish fans wild. The Irishman chipped in from the edge of the 16th green to defeat the World Numbers One and Three by 3 & 2 to give Europe their second point of the morning Fourballs.

Clarke was as sensational as his great friend Woods was disappointing, making five birdies 16 holes to dominate the Americans.

“A few people might have thought that picking myself and Lee as Wild Cards was a bit of a gamble, but the two people who were the most sure that it was no gamble were the two of us,” said Clarke, moments after winning the match for Europe.

With 2 ½ points secured form the morning Fourballs, all eyes turned to Padraig Harrington and Henrik Stenson as they attempted to come back from two holes down with three to play against Scott Verplank and Zach Johnson.

The Europeans clawed their way back into it for a brief moment with when Harrington’s birdie on the 16th got them back to one down with two holes to play, but Johnson, who was by far the best player from team USA in the morning session, chipped in for birdie on the 17th to secure the USA’s only full point of the session.

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