Saturday, September 20, 2008

Connell Barrett, editor at large for Golf Magazine, live-blogged Saturday morning's four-ball matches. Alan Bastable covered the afternoon.

1:15pm: That's my time! One wonders, What's in store this afternoon? Will Boo and Westwood come to blows? Will Faldo bench Sergio mid-round and replace him with... himself? Will Jimmy Roberts be mistaken for a Europe-lovin' leprechaun? So many questions. For answers, Alan Bastable now takes over blog duties. Enjoy!

1:04pm: Ben Curtis is playing this afternoon instead of Leonard because...? I'm sure Leonard's drained from a tough morning match, and I'm all for "fresh legs." But Leonard is the best putter in the world right now. He should be out there, not the guy who looked rusty and tense.

12:55pm: The afternoon 4-balls are under way. I disagree with Miller, who just called Faldo a "genius" for benching Sergio and Westwood. Nick got away with it, thanks to the Mickelson-Kim meltdown. Had that match gone the other way, Faldo would have been tarred-and-feathered by the British press... and I mean that literally. (They're tough Over There...)

12:43pm: Breaking news! In the final match, Europe's Karlsson swats his approach over the green, and Kenny Perry (I forget -- what's his home state again? If only NBC would mention it...) parks his approach to about 10 feet. Harrington scares the pin with his chip, but it doesn't fall, and Perry-Furyk take the final morning match. Team USA now leads Europe, 7 to 5.

12:39pm: "The U.S. team may be looser without Tiger," Sports Illustrated's Dick Friedman says. "And in the Ryder Cup, 'loose' and 'lose' are separated by only one letter."

12:37pm: "Obviously Kim's apprenticeship under Phil is complete," writes Golf.com user Tom Fitz. "Time to deprogram him."

12:30pm: Johnny Miller, as Jim Furyk stalks a short putt on 16: "Look in the dictionary under 'fidgety,' and it says 'see Jim Furyk.' " Still, Furyk and Harrington trade clutch putts, and Furyk-Perry lead in the last match by two holes with two to play, assuring at least a half point for the USA.

12:26pm: McDowell calmly brushes in a 4-footer to win the 18th hole and to halve the match with Leonard-Mahan. Team USA now leads Europe 6 to 5, with one morning match remaining.

12:22pm: In the biggest upset of the matches so far, Wilson-Stenson defeat Mickelson-Kim on 17, 2&1, after Wilson drops a 20-foot left-to-right breaker, and Mickelson is unable to convert his own putt. Point to Europe. Team USA now leads the matches 5 1/2 to 4 1/2, with two matches remaining.

12:14pm: USA now leads in two matches, trails in one. But Harrington, the best clutch putter in golf, just made a 6-footer on 15 to cut Furyk-Perry's lead to 2. It's the first hole won by Harrington-Karlsson since the 7th hole.

12:08pm: Quick big-picture reality check. This is flippin' fantastic! Phil melting down! Leonard dropping bombs. Chants of U! S! A! I feel like this is all being directed by Jerry Bruckheimer. Dear, PGA Tour: More match-play events, please. Thanks.

12:04pm: Furyk puts his team 3-up with 4 to play. Team USA is winning one, losing one, and tied in one. Reader E. Weinberg from L.A. "Phil and Anthony should send someone back to the 9th hole to look for their wheels."

12:01pm: Sports Illustrated's Dick Friedman still can't get past El Nino sitting on El Carto. "I'm sorry, but Faldo benching Sergio is like Joe Torre benching Manny against a righty."

11:58am: A reader named Joey Slugs wonders, "What in the world was Kim thinking? There was just so many things going wrong with that shot." Well said, Joey. Give our best to Paulie Walnuts!

11:54am: Update. Leonard-Mahan all square with Jimenez-McDowell, 2 to play. Kim-Mickelson 1-down to Stenson-Wilson, 3 to play. Perry-Furyk 2-up on Harrington-Karlsson, 5 to play.

11:47am: Kim, behind a tree and with a hanging lie, tries to hit a huge hook on 15 -- a foolish shot that lands in the creek. "Slice lie, coming out of the rough? That to me was a no-brainer," Johnny Miller said, and he's dead-on.Stenson-Wilson are 12 feet from the pin on the green. Kim-Mickelson is about to go 1-down with 3 to play.

11:44am: An irked reader writes, "What is it with NBC? One shot and then 5 commercials. This is just horrendous." (That email was brought to you by the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid.")

11:39am: On 15 green, Leonard drains a 9-footer for birdie, and McDowell makes a terrifying 3-footer. All square, 3 to play. Kim-Mickelson and Stenson-Wilson halve 14 with bogeys, all square.

11:32am: Jimen-ETH just hit a fan-TATH-tic approach into the green on 15, nearly holing it -- and answering a fine approach from Mahan. If this match ends before 18, I'd be shocked.

11:27am: Mahan-Leonard square up the match with Jimenez-McDowell, with only four holes left. Is it just me, or do you expect to be watching Hunter Mahan in Ryder Cups for the next decade? What a clutch player. Meanwhile, today's first point goes to Europe. Cink-Campbell have conceded to Poulter-Rose, 4&3. Europe now trails the USA by two points, 5 1/2 to 3 1/2.

11:24am: Team USA now leads in one match, Europe leads in two, and one match is all-square.

11:22am: In keeping with the week's events, the Fed has just announced it is stepping in to bail out Mickelson-Kim.

11:17am: In other news, Johnny Miller just said a shot was "yum yum."

11:12am: Developing situations! Cink-Campbell have cut Poulter-Rose's lead to two holes with five to play. Jimen-ETH-McDowell are now 1-up on Leonard-Mahan, five to play. Kim-Mickelson are now playing more like Kim Novak and are all-square with Stenson-Wilson, through 12. And Furyk-Perry are 2-up over Harrington-Karlsson, through 10.

11:07am: Wow. Kim and Mickelson took an unplanned walk through the woods. How did they leave the Ryder Cup and end up hitting shots in "The Blair Witch Project"?

11:03am: E. Weinberg, a reader watching in L.A., sent this email: "Mickelson and Kim are tighter than Daly's waistline after Thanksgiving dinner at Hooters." Well said.

11am: The momentum keeps ch-ch-ch-changin'. Cink just planted a short iron to about 8 feet on the 13th, giving Cink-Campbell a good chance to shave a lead that was 5 holes down to 2. Jimenez-McDowell concede on 12, drawing their match with Leonard-Mahan to even.

10:56am: OK, Saturday morning drinking game! Every time Johnny says "Ehh, Rodge," do an espresso shot. Whenver Maltbie enunciates "Jimen-ETH," chug some Sunny-D.

10:45am: Mickelson-Kim drop another hole to Stenson-Wilson. The latest: Cink-Campbell, 4-down through 11. Mickelson-Kim, 1-up through 10. Furyk-Perry, 2-up through 8. Leonard-Mahan, 1-down through 11.

10:40am: A reader named K. O'Connor asks, "Did you see Lee Westwood's comments last night regarding Boo Weekley? Has there been any response from the American team?" An official response? Not to my knowledge. But I saw a Golf Channel interview with Boo "Raise the Roof, Y'all! Raise the Roof!" Weekley last night in which he effectively said, "I am who I am. Deal with it!" There will be sparks -- and fistpumps -- a-flyin' if those two collide in the same group this afternoon. (And, as viewers, let's hope they do!)

10:37am: A fellow Golf.com editor asks a good question: "Westwood has blisters? Don't these guys play enough to have calluses?"

10:32am: We just heard from Westwood, but I wanna hear more about why Sergio was benched. Maybe I had too many pumkin-spice lattes this morning, but I swear that Faldo stammered something on TV about Sergio saying he was tired. I can't believe that's true, but if it is, it's huge. Chris Riley is -- right or wrong -- still known as the guy who asked to take a seat during the 2004 Ryder Cup.

10:24am: Perry-Furyk salvage a par on the par-5 seventh, but Harrinton-Karlsson make birdie. They now trail the American team by 2 holes. Fun fact from NBC: Perry's putter was given to him by a retired banker. (Is "retired" code for "broke"? Just wondering...)

10:18am: Time to get nervous, American fans. Kenny Perry just washed his 243-yard approach on the par-5 7th. A VERY aggressive play. "U! S! AIEEE! U! S! AIEEE!"

10:15am: The momentum has shifted in the Mickelson-Kim match. The Americans just made a bogey on 8 to lose their second straight hole to the underdog team of Stenson-Wilson. They've gone from 4-up to 2-up.

10:09am: Some updates... Mickelson-Kim, 3-up through 8. Furyk-Perry, 3-up through 7. Leonard-Mahan, 1-down through 8.

10:02am: Two hours into play today, both sides lead in two matches. I think Faldo needs at least 3 points in the morning matches; it's much harder to run the table in alternate-shot than in fourball (with twice as many shots being hit in the latter). If the Americans merely hold serve and split the points, as Faldo knows, Team USA wins the Ryder Cup.

9:59am: But you won't see Leonard panic. Yesterday, the same duo fell two behind after two holes in the morning matches. Yet Justin had the presence of mind to quip to Mahan, "I lost the first two on purpose, just to take the pressure off us." That loosened them both up and they soon went on a birdie binge.

9:56am: Leonard-Mahan make a 6 after driving it in the fairway, going 2-down through 7.

9:46am: Leonard-Mahan have closed the gap on Jimenez-McDowell, now 1-down through 6. And Perry-Furyk look to build on their 3-hole lead on Harrington-Karlsson; hometown hero Kenny Perry just parked his approach on 5 to about 3 feet. Advantage USA. 

9:38am: Phil looks great today. Even his missed putts look like they should go in. Why the Ryder Cup tide change for Lefty? Says mental-game expert Dr. Joe Parent, who has worked with Vijay Singh and David Toms (and who wrote a good book called "Zen Putting"): "Playing with Kim moves Phil into being the role model and gets him out of his own head about his game. And instead of being competitive with his partner, like he was with Tiger in 2004. Phil's added focus lets the rookie Kim feel welcome and comfortable. And Anthony's exuberance is good for Phil, who tends to get very tight and try too hard. They're loose and hitting fun shots, rather than Phil trying to make every swing perfect, which is impossible."

9:34am: More updates! Cink-Campbell, 4-down through 6. Mickelson-Kim, 3-up through 5. Furyk-Perry, 2-up through 3. Leonard-Mahan, 2-down through 5. It's basically a tie some 90 minutes into Saturday's action, with two American flags on the board to match two European flags.

9:29am: Perhaps trying to force the issue, Cink makes a sacrifice to golf's water gods, rinsing his 234-yard approach shot on the 601-yard par-5 seventh. A bit heavy, opines Johnny, and he found the lake on the left. Cink-Campbell are now poised to go 5-down to Poulter-Rose.

9:26am: Updates! Cink-Campbell, 4-down through 6. Mickelson-Kim, 3-up through 4. Furyk-Perry, 2-up through 3.

9:17am: Perry (barely) drops the putt on 2, to take a 2-hole lead with partner Furyk.

9:12am: Furyk knocks a 9-iron 132 yards to the shadow of the pin on 2. You have to think Furyk -- a proud player and a U.S. Open champion -- has a little something to prove today after a somewhat flaccid Friday for him. Not bad, but not up to his standards.

9:06am: Poulter looks like he only wants to play 10 or 11 holes. Poulter-Rose go 4-up through 5 over Cink-Campbell.

9:02am: Mickelson-Kim go 1-up on Stenson-Wilson through 2, thanks to an extra-chunky chip by Stenson. Furyk-Perry go 1-up through 1. Things are tightening up. I love match play! I love alternate shot! I love it when pros chunk shots... it makes me feel better about my game.

9:00am: In other news, I just poured more milk into my coffee. The photo on the milk carton? Sergio Garcia.

8:58am: Cink-Campbell, 3-down through 4. Leonard-Mahan, 1-down through 3. Mickelson-Kim, all square through 1. Furyk-Perry, on first hole.

8:52am: All four matches are underway, with Cink-Campbell in danger of letting their match with Poulter-Rose get out of control. Poulter clinically drains a 4-footer to go 3-up through 4.

8:49am: Rose sinks a short putt to keep Rose-Poulter 2-up over Cink-Campbell through 3.

8:37am: Kim-Mickelson tee off against Wilson-Stenson. Like Johnny Miller said, "This would be a huge upset if the team of Kim and Mickelson didn't win." True. All the pressure is on Team USA in that match. Captain Zinger is counting on that point.

8:33am: Mahan drains a 3-footer. He and Leonard are all-square with Jimenez-McDowell, through one. Poulter-Rose go 2-up on Cink-Campbell.

8:28am: Sergio is sitting in a cart! My take on benching Sergio and Westwood. Statistically, it was a mistake. The pair have combined for 28 career Ryder Cup points. But to quote the great philosopher John Madden, "Winning is the ultimate deodorant." No one will care if the Euros win, say, 3 or more points in the very volatile format that is alternate-shot. Whether or not you agree with his move, credit Faldo for having cojones the size of church bells.

8:24am: So far, so bad for Team USA. After losing the first hole, Cink-Campbell may have lost their tee shot on No. 2.

8:17am: Regarding the benching of Sergio and Westwood, Faldo tells NBC that Westwood is "very tired" and "I wanted to rest the guys... in a brutal week. I thought fresh legs today were very important today." I'll have to check my Tivo, but he also stammered something that suggested that Sergio told him he "was shot" yesterday. Did Sergio pull a Chris Riley and ASK to be rested?

8:11am: Blimey! Poulter nearly holes his approach on the first hole, making a statement even louder than his duds. Birdie. Poulter-Rose take the lead over Cink-Campbell. The spikey hair, the cocky grin, the club-twirling... not to mention his "It would just be me and Tiger" comments from earlier this year. We Americans love to hate Poulter. He's great for the Cup. Every reality show needs a villain.

8:09am: And, we're off! Welcome to Golf.com’s Saturday morning blog. We have some fascinating storylines to watch today as the foursomes unfold, including Nick’s Big Gamble, benching Ryder Cup studs Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood. Is he a mad genius -- or just mad? Can Europe close the 3-point gap? Email me at Connell_Barrett@golf.com and I’ll post comments throughout the morning.

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