Ryder Cup Countdown: Sam Torrance Wins as Captain
THE Ryder Cup at Brookline in 1999 left a bad taste in the mouth, and not because of the fact that Europe lost but because of the behaviour of American players, their wives, officials and fans as the US completed an astonishing fightback.
Much hinged on the 2001 match, not least the reputation of the contest. And all the more so when it was postponed for 12 months because of the 9/11 terrorist atrocity.
The teams who lined up at The Belfry in 2002 were the same 24 players who had qualified for the match that should have taken place 12 months earlier. And, thankfully, it was played in the right spirit.
Sam Torrance and Curtis Strange, the respective Europe and United States captains, were determined to put on a show in the true nature of the competition. With a few of the Europeans having lost their form in 2002 the visitors started the event as warm favourites.
But the first two days proved there was little between the teams. Europe took the first morning’s fourballs with the world nuber one Tiger Woods losing in the company of Paul Azinger against Darren Clarke and the Dane Thomas Bjorn.
Woods was on the wrong side of another defeat in the afternoon fourballs, this time playing with Mark Calcavecchia against Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, but with Hal Sutton and Scott Verplank leading the way for the Stars and Stripes by defeating Clarke and Bjorn 2&1, the Americans were able to win the session 2½-1½ and so reduce the overall deficit to a mere point.
By the end of play on the Saturday evening it was all square at 8-8. Honours were even in the morning foursomes with Woods linking up with Davis Love to settle the score with Clarke and Bjorn and then Woods and Love were victors again in the foursomes against Garcia and Westwood as the US won the session 2½-1½.
And so it all came down to the singles.
Torrance packed his top order with his best players, Strange did the opposite. Who would be right? In the event it was Torrance as European ran out 15½-12½ winners. The Europeans played brilliantly on that glorious Sunday, played in beautiful Sunday sunshine.
Strange was magnanimous in defeat. He said: “We got beat. The score on Sunday was 28-under for the Europeans to eight-under. The facts ruin the stories a lot of times, so the facts never get in there. Those who questioned my first three guys, insulted those players. I will defend all 12 of my players until the day I leave this place. They insulted David Duval, David Toms especially and Scott Hoch by saying I didn’t have good players up front. They were world-class players.”
Of course, Phil Mickelson was a world-class player, as were Love, Jim Furyk and Azinger. Yet while the likes of Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer fulfilled their billing as superior to Hoch and Sutton respectively, that US quartet of big names in the slots below could only muster three halves between them.
Azinger tied with Niclas Fasth, Furyk with Paul McGinley and Love with Pierre Fulke. But the biggest shock came in the 11th match. Nobody gave the Welshman Phillip Price much chance against Mickelson. Yet his captain did. And Price was inspired.
“Sam Torrance came up to me on the putting green and said, ‘I need something from you today, I need a point’,” Price said. “The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I knew that despite being the underdog, if I gave everything I had something would happen and it did. I was pretty excited and nervous at the same time. I knew the course well and it was one that suited my game, I was fresh - Mickelson had played every session, and so I felt I was in with a good chance. I guess it was my day.”
It was his day and Europe’s week, although for Strange there was something far more important at stake. “There’s certainly more to a Ryder Cup than winning or losing, and in the aftermath of 9/11 this was especially the case because it became bigger than just a ‘win’ or ‘loss’,” Strange said. “People got it. They knew the matches were played with such etiquette, respect and sportsmanship.
"And after what happened in Boston [in the Ryder Cup of 1999], those ends were really a goal of ours. The matches were wonderfully played, and we had a wonderful week. And on that - win, lose or draw - nothing will ever change my mind.”
2002 Ryder Cup Results
Darren Clarke/Thomas Bjorn, Europe, def. Tiger Woods/Paul Azinger, USA, 1-up
Lee Westwood/Sergio Garcia, Europe, def. David Duval/Davis Love III, USA, 4 & 3
Colin Montgomerie/Bernhard Langer, Europe, def. Scott Hoch/Jim Furyk, USA, 4 & 3
Phil Mickelson/David Toms, USA, def. Padraig Harrington/Niclas Fasth, Europe, 1-up
Score after first session: Europe 3, USA 1
Hal Sutton/Scott Verplank, USA, def. Darren Clarke/Thomas Bjorn, Europe, 2 & 1
Lee Westwood/Sergio Garcia, Europe, def. Tiger Woods/Mark Calcavecchia, USA, 2 & 1
Colin Montgomerie/Bernhard Langer, Europe, halved with Phil Mickelson/David Toms, USA
Stewart Cink/Jim Furyk, USA, def. Padraig Harrington/Paul McGinley, Europe, 2 & 1
Europe 4.5, USA 3.5
Phil Mickelson/David Toms, USA, def. Pierre Fulke/Phillip Price, Europe, 2 & 1
Colin Montgomerie/Bernhard Langer, Europe, def. Scott Verplank/Scott Hoch, USA, 1-up
Lee Westwood/Sergio Garcia, Europe, def. Stewart Cink/Jim Furyk, USA, 2 & 1
Tiger Woods/Davis Love III, USA, def. Darren Clarke/Thomas Bjorn, Europe, 2 & 1
Mark Calcavecchia/David Duval, USA, def. Niclas Fasth/Jesper Parnevik, Europe, 1-up
Colin Montgomerie/Bernhard Langer, Europe, def. Phil Mickelson/David Toms, USA, 2 & 1
Tiger Woods/Davis Love III, USA, def. Sergio Garcia/Lee Westwood, Europe, 1-up
Darren Clarke/Paul McGinley, Europe, halved with Scott Hoch/Jim Furyk, USA
USA 8, Europe 8
Colin Montgomerie, Europe, def. Scott Hoch, USA, 5 & 4
Padraig Harrington, Europe, def. Mark Calcavecchia, USA, 5 & 4
Bernhard Langer, Europe, def. Hal Sutton, USA, 4 & 3
David Toms, USA, def. Sergio Garcia, Europe, 1-up
Darren Clarke, Europe, halved with David Duval, USA
Thomas Bjorn, Europe, def. Stewart Cink, USA, 2 & 1
Scott Verplank, USA, def. Lee Westwood, Europe, 2 & 1
Phillip Price, Europe, def. Phil Mickelson, USA, 3 & 2
Paul Azinger, USA, halved with Niclas Fasth, Europe
Paul McGinley, Europe, halved with Jim Furyk, USA
Davis Love III, USA, halved with Pierre Fulke, Europe
Tiger Woods, USA, halved with Jesper Parnevik, Europe
Europe 15.5, USA 12.5
Next week: The Miracle at Medinah...
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