September 21, 2008


Nick Faldo's big gamble misfires as US regain Ryder Cup at a canter (Lawrence Donegan, 9/22/08, The Guardian)

"It was a matter of fractions, " the losing captain said afterwards. "But congratulations to Paul. The Americans were just that bit better than us this week."

They were indeed, especially the likes of Anthony Kim, who was handed the dual task of facing Sergio GarcĂ­a in the opening singles match and whipping the crowd into even greater paroxysms of patriotic fervour . He performed both tasks admirably, handing the Spaniard a 5&4 defeat and making the ebullient Boo Weekley - whose antics have been a signature of the week - look like a wallflower with self-esteem issues.

Hometown favourite Kenny Perry, who defeated Henrik Stenson 3&2 despite having an injured shoulder, was another who contributed hugely to the red, white and blue cause, while the Ryder Cup rookie Hunter Mahan was the team's highest points contributor, with three and a half.

But while captain Azinger was handing out the campaign medals, captain Faldo was no doubt preparing himself for the firing squad. Europe's main man has never been one for self doubt but surely even he will have cause to question some of his own decisions, in private at least. As for the public inquisition, it can safely be said the prosecution file will land on his desk with a hefty thud.

In fairness to Faldo, his most controversial move since being appointed to lead the European team this week turned out to be his best. Ian Poulter's 3&2 victory over Steve Stricker yesterday earned the Englishman his fourth point of the match (out of five) and confirmed him as the highest points winner on either side. It was one last, wonderful effort from a player who has silenced his doubters once and for all, but it was also one that served to highlight the folly of his mentor's thinking.

"This week is all about the team, not the individual, so I am very, very disappointed," said Poulter, who might have made a world of difference if he had been allowed to strut his stuff - six birdies in 16 holes - earlier in the day.

Instead Faldo, whose team faced a overnight deficit of two points, staked everything on the belief that his best players would retain the trophy by winning down the stretch. Azinger gambled, too, hoping best players would secure an early victory, and for long spells during a compelling afternoon found himself straddling that painful divide between ecstasy and agony.

What's the point of winning the matches after the concession?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 21, 2008 7:39 PM
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