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Published: Monday, 9/20/2004

Big guns misfired for United States

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. - The only Monster at Oakland Hills this time was the Europeans.

The Euros sure ate up the United States, winning 18 1/2-9 1/2 en route to handing the Americans the worst setback in Ryder Cup history.

"The truth is, the Europeans were the best players this week," U.S captain Hal Sutton said. "They played well."

Truth be known, the Europeans have played well for quite some time. They have consistently dominated the Americans, winning four of the last five Ryder Cup matches.

"We need to figure something out," Kenny Perry said.

What the U.S. team really needs is for its big guns to play well at the Ryder Cup.

Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III - ranked Nos. 2, 4 and 6 in the world - went a combined 4-9-1.

That's 14 matches. Three days. 4 1/2 points.

"Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love are supposed to play great," Love said, "and none of us did."

Woods went 2-3 and won his singles match yesterday, beating European rookie Paul Casey 3 and 2. Mickelson, 1-3 after being benched during the Saturday morning four-ball matches, lost to Sergio Garcia 3 and 2 in his singles match.

Love ended up 1-3-1 after blowing a 2-up lead yesterday with three holes to play and settling for a tie with good friend Darren Clarke.

Sutton was widely criticized for pairing Woods and Mickelson together for the first time on Friday. They failed miserably, losing both matches.

Putting Woods and Mickelson as partners broke up the Woods-Love pairing, which won twice in its debut at The Belfry in 2002, and broke up the Mickelson-David Toms partnership that went 3-1 in 1999 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. That was the last time the Americans won the Ryder Cup.

"We cannot second-guess what we did," Sutton said. "We've got to live in the present. I made mistakes. I take full responsibility for the mistakes that I made. I thought there was no bad way to pair the guys we had.

"Obviously, the pairings that we sent out didn't create any charisma. but we might have paired it the way you liked, and we might have the same outcome. So, I'm going to live with it. I'm going to move on. I'm going to hug my kid tomorrow and everything will be great."

The most successful American golfer was rookie Chris DiMarco, who went 2-1-1 and earned a team-high 2 1/2 points. He won 1-up over Miguel Angel Jimenez in his singles match yesterday.

Rookie Chris Riley (1-1-1) scored 1 1/2 points, while Chad Campbell (1-2-0) earned one. Two other first-timers - Fred Funk (0-3-0) and Perry (0-2-0) - were shut out.

Other Americans with losing records included former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk (1-3-1), Stewart Cink (1-2-1), Jay Haas (1-2-1) and Toms (1-2-0).

"We need to figure out our team play a little bit better," Perry said. "I think our foursomes and four-balls, we just need to kind of gel a little bit better and get guys playing that are a little more comfortable with each other, and try to get a little magic."

Not even Houdini would have an easy time helping the U.S. team escape its problems.

"I don't consider it an upset that we lost," Funk said. "I consider it an upset that it was such a wide margin."

Once the Americans quit licking their wounds from this whipping, they will regroup and start preparing for the 2006 Ryder Cup matches, to be held at the K Club in Ireland.

"It'll stick in the record book forever, but I'll move past this eventually," Sutton said.

Contact Ron Musselman at:

mussel@theblade.com

or 419-724-6474.



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