Friday, September 22, 2006

Tiger does his part early

Considering his day began with a fat, pulled 3-wood into the water on the par-4 first hole, Tiger Woods' morning improved nicely as he and Jim Furyk, the new American dream team, were the only American winners in four-ball play, edging Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington 1-up.

If the Americans are going to win the Ryder Cup back, Woods needs to contribute at least four points, which is more than half his career point total. Trailing 2 1/2 - 1 1/2 after the morning wasn't a disaster but it seemed too familiar, given the Americans' recent poor starts.

The featured match with Woods wasn't spectacular, perhaps because it took nearly 5 1/2 hours to complete. Woods made the difference with consecutive birdies early in the back nine to put his team ahead. Then they held off the Europeans, neither of whom looked particularly sharp.

The sharpest American in the morning was rookie J.J. Henry, who made five birdies and has been the best U.S. player in practice this week. Had Henry and Cink won their match rather than halve it after being 3-down, it could have been the emotional spark the Americans needed.

The Phil Mickelson-Chris DiMarco pairing didn't have its Presidents Cup magic as they lost. Mickelson looked flat, making just one birdie, suggesting we may not see the Phil we see at the Masters.

In the afternoon, captain Tom Lehman made a couple of curious decisions. He sat Henry, who was the morning's top player, and he also kept Scott Verplank on the bench. Verplank was a captain's pick largely for his alternate-shot talents, where he's straight off the tee and a terrific clutch putter. It raises the question if Verplank's back is bothering him or if Lehman thought the long conditions, exacerbated by afternoon showers, worked against Verplank.

The best part of the morning was Darren Clarke. Everyone knows his sad story now, and he was greeted on the first tee by a roaring ovation. He then smacked his opening tee shot down the middle and birdied the first hole like something from a storybook.

When Clarke closed out Mickelson and DiMarco with a birdie at the last, there were tears in his eyes. As a reward, captain Ian Woosnam gave Clarke the afternoon off.


Anonymous said...

Unusual to read about anything other than his naked wife lately. Refreshing.