Ryder Cup: Europe on verge of record rout

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/G/Golfgeneric.jpg' class='caption'> Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke on verge of routing Ryder cup.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:08 IST
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Sergio Garcia removed the flag from the 18th hole and waved it over his head. Padraig Harrington tossed his glove and cap into crowd that draped itself in European flags and sang Ole, Ole! from the top of its lungs. Darren Clarke lit up another cigar. There was no need to wait for this juggernaut of a European team to celebrate at the Ryder Cup. Today looks like a mere formality. Two English rookies in their Ryder Cup debut delivered the pivotal point yesterday. Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Europe's reliable stars then pounded the Americans. When it was over, Europe had an 11-5 lead - its largest ever - and needed to win only three of 12 singles matches to capture the cup. It was the largest two-day lead since 1967, when Ben Hogan opened the Ryder Cup by introducing his team as "the 10 greatest golfers in the world." Good rally The best 12 this week at Oakland Hills belong to Europe. US captain Hal Sutton will send out his players today in the order they qualified - from Woods at No 1 to Stewart Cink at No 12. Woods, Mickelson and Davis Love III have earned only one point. Jim Furyk and Chad Campbell don't have any. Europe has so thoroughly outplayed the home team that Paul Casey asked to go off first with hopes of playing Woods, telling Langer he has beaten him in the two tournaments they have played this year. After the Americans staged an impressive rally in better-ball matches - they had the potential for a sweep - Europe staved them off behind Casey and David Howell, who won the last two holes against Campbell and Furyk for a 1-up victory that sent a surge of confidence through their teammates. Europe poured it on by winning three of the alternate-shot matches, none bigger than Harrington and Paul McGinley overcoming an early deficit to whip Woods and Love. Woods and Love bogeyed four out of six holes in the middle of the match and lost, 4 and 3. Garcia, Westwood Mickelson, benched in the morning after his poor play Friday, joined David Toms for the lone US victory in the afternoon, 4 and 3 over Thomas Levet and Miguel Angel Jimenez. But the European stalwarts were Garcia and Westwood, the only players who have yet to lose a match this week. First, they held off Jay Haas and Chris DiMarco for a tie and a half-point in the morning. Westwood teamed with Clarke for a 5-and-4 victory over Haas and DiMarco in the afternoon, and Garcia joined Luke Donald to win 1 up over Furyk and Fred Funk. Garcia started to rub it in when asked about Europe gaining a 6-2 edge in alternate shot. Mickelson, Friday's goat and yesterday's cheerleader, found enough of his game to score his first point at Oakland Hills, but that was a small consolation. They started going under toward the end of the morning better-ball matches. Trailing 6 1/2-1 12 at the start of a sunny day, the Americans looked like they might erase most of that deficit in one session. They got off to a great start, and the crowd responded with raucous chants of "USA!" that rang out across Oakland Hills. Turn around At one point, they were poised to win 3 1/2 points from the better-ball matches, maybe even sweep. But it all changed in about 30 minutes - the lead, the momentum, everything but possession of the cup, which looks like it will remain in Europe for another two years. Furyk made three straight birdies for a 1-up lead on the 13th hole. Howell hit his approach to 3 feet for birdie on the 15th, then Campbell contributed with a 35-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to regain the lead with two to play. But the English rookies showed their mettle. Howell stuffed his tee shot on the 17th into 8 feet for birdie to square the match. On the closing hole, Casey hit to the right side of the green, a difficult two-putt for par. Campbell was just short of the green, and he decided to chip instead of putt through about 6 feet of fringe. It looked like the worst the Americans could do was a halve. But Campbell's chip came out a little hot and went 8 feet by, and he missed that for bogey. Casey lagged beautifully over the ridge, calmed his nerves and holed a 3-footer for par to win the match. They became the first rookie tandem to win their Ryder Cup debut in 25 years. Despite all the early momentum, all the boisterous cheering, the Americans only had to look at the European blue on the scoreboard to realize they didn't make up much ground. And it was all downhill from there. (AP)

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