Friday, September 22, 2006

A false start

The United States Ryder Cup team -- and everyone distantly related to it -- has a uniform for everything they do here in Ireland.

Wonder if they have a "been there, done that" T-shirt?

One day in, the Americans find themselves in a familiar spot -- trailing 5-3 after watching Sergio Garcia play like Tiger Woods and Colin Montgomerie make another putt that matters.

The Americans weren't bad and they're certainly not finished with 20 more matches to go but they need to play better than they did Friday if they want to spend Saturday night anticipating rather than dreading Sunday.

The simple solution is to make more putts. That's what captain Tom Lehman saw as the problem and there's something to that.

But it's deeper than that.

The Americans need to play better period.

That's possible, maybe even likely. Tiger Woods went 1-1 with Jim Furyk Friday and neither had their best stuff. The chances of both of them being dull on Saturday is slim.

The bigger question is whether the Chris DiMarco-Phil Mickelson team can find its mojo. Mickelson looks almost disengaged. He's not the same crisp player he was three months ago and he needs to be for the U.S. to win.

Here are some other impressions after the first day:

  • Sergio Garcia is amazing in the Ryder Cup. If he played and putted every week as well as he does in the Ryder Cup, Tiger would have a challenger at No. 1.
  • The Europeans showed their depth by getting at least one-half point from every player. That's the difference in the Euros and the Americans. Lehman still hasn't put Scott Verplank and Vaughn Taylor out. Verplank goes out Saturday morning but if things go bad in the four-balls, Taylor may not play before Sunday's singles.
  • J.J. Henry was a stud. He can make some birdies, the guys like him and it may have been a mistake for Lehman to sit him down Friday afternoon. If the Americans are going to find an unlikely hero, it may be him.
  • The Americans won the team uniform battle on Friday. Nice call on the black pants, gray shirts and gray-and-white argyle sweaters.
  • Sweetest moment of the day belonged to Darren Clarke at the first tee when the crowd roared for him and the guys he was playing with -- Lee Westwood, Mickelson and DiMarco -- each gave him a hug.
  • Two key matches for the Americans in Saturday's four-balls: Woods and Furyk must beat Clarke and Westwood, and Mickelson and DiMarco must beat Garcia and Olazabal. Otherwise, you're counting on Zach Johnson and Scott Verplank to beat Henrik Stenson and Padraig Harrington. Ummm....