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Europe set for comfortable win

September 19, 2004 16:57 IST

Unless golf history is made, Europe will comfortably retain the Ryder Cup against a U.S. team which has been in disarray for the first two days.

Unlike his European counterpart Bernhard Langer, the U.S. skipper Hal Sutton has largely relied on his 12 higher-ranked players to make their own preparations for the fiercely contested biennial contest.

"These guys play big tournaments week in week out," Sutton told a news conference before Friday's tee-off. "I've just told 'em to be ready when the play starts."

They have proved anything but ready for an inspired European onslaught which left the previously fancied U.S. team looking at the wrong end of an 11-5 scoreline by Saturday evening after the opening 16 fourball and foursomes play.

No team in Ryder Cup history since the first match in 1927 has lost with such an advantage although the U.S. did famously overturn a 10-6 deficit in 1999 at Brookline.

BIGGEST GUNS

Sutton has predictably packed the upper half of his singles sheet with his biggest guns to win early points and get the all-important momentum going for the U.S. on Sunday.

Tiger Woods, who so far has won only one of four matches at Oakland Hills this week, will tee off the singles against European rookie Paul Casey.

In the next match, Phil Mickelson will attempt to carry forward his winning form of the Saturday afternoon foursomes against Sergio Garcia.

World number five Davis Love will play the third singles against his close friend, Ulsterman Darren Clarke.

On paper, the Europeans in those matches should be heavily outgunned but matchplay golf has a tendency to even up such contests and certainly on Saturday night, the Europeans were brimming with confidence that they could finish the job.

Two Irishmen, Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley, who holed the winning putt in 2002 at the Belfry, anchor the European team against Jay Haas and Stewart Cink respectively.

Captain Langer was expecting to secure the trophy for his continent for the eighth time -- and the fourth out of the last five encounters -- well before those matches counted.

"I expect my team to be totally focused and I think we will win between five and six points, and that will be fantastic," he said.

Sutton responded: "There's 12 (U.S.) guys that know what they have got to do. I think they will respond tomorrow and play great. Whether they play great enough to win ... that'll have to be pretty great in order for us to win.

"But I believe in my heart they can. Whether they will or not is a whole other story."

Europe's biggest win was under Tony Jacklin in 1985 when they beat the Americans at the Belfry 16 1/2-11 1/2.

Jon Bramley
Source:
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